Woks And Kettles

February 2, 2006 

The energy wasted on the recent imbroglio over Google’s censorship of its new Chinese website would have been better spent protecting Chinese dogs from becoming menu items.   

It seems that, almost simultaneously, Google: (1) was willing to retain access to the Chinese market by acquiescing to Commie demands that require Google to block politically sensitive topics on its China search site and not offer e-mail, chat and blogs...Chinese authorities fear these can become catalysts for social and political unrest and (2) refused to comply with a US government subpoena for data on internet searches relating to a federal law designed to protect children from online pornography.   

The debate centers around the fact that Google willingly went prone for the ChiComs, yet “specifically refused to cooperate with the (US) government that is trying to test the effectiveness of the Google filters that Google put in place (and that were advanced) as a viable alternative to the Child On-Line Protection Act”.   

Many Liberals are lauding Google on both fronts.  The censorship in China is praised as “constructive engagement that respects but also challenges local law” and not complying with the US subpoena puts Google on the front lines of protecting the opaquely elucidated “right to privacy”.  By siding with Google, the Liberals are forever consistent...support despots and loathe any moral decency in America.  It is so trendy for snotty little nouveau riche brats to be “anti-establishment”. 

Conservatives perceive hypocrisy on Google’s part.  As Debra Saunders writes, “The company amasses founts of information on users of its service. Yet, by riding on the coattails of anti-Bush sentiment, Google claims the mantle of champion of privacy rights.”  The company takes an instant rollover on “rights” to please the Chicoms, but resists the US government when it comes to keeping children and pornography apart.   

As is usually the case, the Conservatives are applying logic to the analysis while the Liberals are still burning sage and studying the metaphysics of it. 

But, both platforms, Liberal and Conservative, have focused on the trees and missed the forest.  This is about “Free Trade”. 

Let’s face it; China is a market of 1.3 billion people and the second-largest economy in the world after the US.  If Google didn’t pursue the Chinese market, it would probably be sued by its shareholders and skewered by the SEC.  Considering the fact that China has "Normal Trade Relations" (NTR) status (generally known as Most Favored-Nation status) with the US, Google had better get their butt into that market or hitch a ride on the IBM to Lenovo ThinkPad. 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, some nut-job coined the term “Free Trade”.  And, ever since, it has taken on a cachet of its own.  Even President Bush, like Clinton before him, thinks that “Trade with China will promote freedom. The case for trade is not just monetary, but moral - not just a matter of commerce, but a matter of conviction. Economic freedom creates habits of liberty. And habits of liberty create expectations of democracy.”  Of course there are some glaring omissions here. 

In a nutshell, “Free Trade” is nothing more, nor less, than a bunch of nations making money off the largesse of the US citizenry and...the US consumer getting some decent bargains.  The trade may be free, but the playing field sure as hell ain’t level. 

Before you even think of being abused by Google’s censorship of its China site, think about censorship in other areas of US-International trade.   

Think about EPA rules that all but killed the US foundry industry while “Air pollution is widespread in China. Antiquated factories billow smoke, many residents still use coal to heat their centuries-old houses, and a sharp increase in car ownership has bathed the motorways in exhaust fumes.” 

Think about the fortune in water pollution control equipment required by US agencies from paper manufacturers while you think about the explosion at a Chinese chemical plant that sent 100 tons of cancer-causing benzene compounds into the Songhua River.    As these pollutants streamed downriver towards Russia, they went unreported and according to ABC news brought, “into focus China's lack of transparency.” 

Think about the (former?) US textile industry which has been devastated by labor laws, environmental laws and OSHA requirements while you think about Chinese “girls working between 13 to 14 hours a day from 7 a.m.- 10 p.m.”. 

Or, think about the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 which “made giving gifts, money or anything of value to influence foreign officials illegal in countries where there is no objection to the practice” while you think about our competitors in countries such as France and Germany being awarded foreign contracts for doing exactly what over-regulated US companies are forbidden to do. 

This isn’t “Free Trade”...it is “Affirmative Action Trade”.  As the US opened its markets, it closed its ability to compete through a web of regulations and a lack of quid pro quo from trading “partners”.  This is no different than disarming the law-abiding citizenry and allowing only criminals to have guns.  What is a body supposed to do? 

For starters, you can empty your pockets every time you use any energy.  I guess the bright-bulb who dreamt of enriching underdeveloped nations at the expense of US wealth never gave a second’s thought to the energy consequences of every Chinese household with an air conditioning unit.  Or, as National Geographic points out, “China is the world's fastest growing auto market...over two million cars were sold in the country in 2003, a nearly 80 percent increase over 2002”.  Think about that growing demand for gasoline when you’re looking to blame somebody for gas prices. 

It’s logical to assume that the opening of foreign markets will promote democracy-inspiring economic opportunity, but it is a stretch when the playing field isn’t level.  As a matter of fact: the clear-cutting of forests; the polluting of a vast nation, the exploitation of children and the repression of human rights for profit is a negative return on investment...especially when it consequently weakens the US economy.  The US trade deficit with China is now the largest the United States has with any country in the world.   

The double standard that Google demonstrates is nothing more than an extension of double standards sanctioned by Washington, D.C. for decades.  Coddling foreign markets, while handicapping domestic wealth creation, seems to be the post World War II American way.  Enriching your enemies is a fine tradition institutionalized by FDR at Yalta...we honored all those who fought for democracy by giving Eastern Europe to Stalin. 

Google is just pursuing its shareholders’ best interests...which is a damn sight better than what those dolts, on both sides of our nation’s capital, are doing to their shareholders. It’s nice to enjoy bargain-priced Chinese goods, but isn’t it just a bit like Google appeasing China and telling America to bug-off?   

 

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