Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Searching for the Harmonious Society

(excuse the rampant blogus interruptus, but well, we've been busy)

Today is a day of darkness. Google's out of China, redirecting google.cn to Hong Kong, now with improved uncensored entertainment!!1!11

Two giants that fiercely battle for world dominance, each at its own sphere, have finally met, and are at a clash. This can end "well", in the sense that no more news (or escalation) takes place. In due course, Google is completely blocked in Mainland, and loses marketshare in the skyrocketing superpower (this reminds me of companies like Pepsi-Cola, that were the all-singing, all-dancing friends of the apartheid regime in South Africa. When Mandela was finally freed, companies like Coca-Cola, who stood the course and avoided S.A. like the plague, never stood a chance in that market.)

But market share for Google is the least of the worries. This thing in the worst case could cast a long shadow.

The next step in the tit-for-tat game is, most likely, the Chinese completely blocking access to all Google sites and services in the mainland, and turning a blind eye to the scientific and industrial communities that recently said "they'd go blind without google". There are easy circumventions, as my Iranian friends will tell--or anyone with one hour to spare will discover (proxies and tor and vpns the most obvious ones).

What comes after that is anyone's guess. What happens to the people"dissidents"/"terrorists" whose emails the Chinese were hacking? What happens to Google employees in the mainland? Shouldn't they be arrested to serve as an example?

Hong Kong is semi-independent, so what happens there? Does China ignore Google's FUIMREDIRECTING message or does China force a strong hand in .hk? The British were smart enough to insert Article 5 when giving up HK, and Google is fully hiding behind that loophole. But will China stay put, ridiculed by an American Corporation? Seems unlikely, if you consider that the Hawks in China (and in America) must be salivating all over this.

One chilling way this could go is for China to retaliate (disproportionally, as is its wont--that's a state that cures your drug addiction with a bullet on your head) towards some visible corporation in Taiwan. Or, less likely, to strike with its sinister pit-bull. North Korea, who has been duly serving its duty as a buffer between China's and America's (giant) spheres of influence will be let loose to do something nasty in the coming months, with full knowledge and approval from the mainland.

Economically, Shanghai and other Chinese hotspots can suffer from productivity deceleration and perhaps even decreased productivity. Imagine living for a month without anything google provides. (Apple may now move its phone to bing, mentioning concerns about services like maps and search and so forth).

Make no mistake. These are Google and China; two entities whose sole purpose is utter and complete world domination. One wants to become the next British Empire, the next USSR, the next America. China is holding upwards of 2 Trillion greenbacks. The other side not only has the backing of potus, but can stand on its own, given it knows everything about everyone. (Everything. About Everyone. It matches that picture you took ages ago in Aruba against the other faces, and saves it somewhere. Senator McCarthy would have loved to peek inside google's brains.) Between China and Google, in an information age, it's a real puzzle to find out which is more powerful.

A word from our sponsors: All of this censorship in China is provided by Cisco, "the leading supplier of networking equipment and network management for the Internet." Ironically, they advertise for "Borderless Networks".

But hey, what do I know? I think governments everywhere are scared of the bottom-up empowerment that recent tech has brought; I've read too many history books, my greatest fears concern inflation on the US and/or a Chinese attack on the US currency (see here for a precedent). I actually invest in gold for christ's sake. My tin-foil hat collection is growing bigger by the week.

At any rate, a day the google page goes dark is a day the search for the harmonious society becomes harder.