A new perspective, one that I hadn’t thought of yesterday when I wrote my post about cheering Google’s decision to stop censoring search results in China, comes from a Business Week article. The article speculates about Google’s suggestion that it may pull out of China altogether because of concerns about censorship and the hacking of GMail accounts, presumably by the Chinese government. The article suggests that Google’s withdrawal from the Chinese marketplace would be bad news for the Chinese people since Google’s search results are less heavily censored than the results provided by Baidu, Google’s main competitor in China.
This is an argument that has played out in a number of places throughout history. Think of the US embargo of Cuba as an example. The US forbids trade with Cuba because of the actions of its leader. The pressure of the embargo is supposed to make the leader change his policies and yet, in the forty years since the imposition of the embargo, Castro’s policies have remained unchanged. The result is an impoverished, isolated population. In other words, the embargo’s impact is felt almost exclusively by the Cuban people, not by Cuba’s leaders.
I still applaud Google’s decision to stop censoring search results in China, even though Chinese leaders may force Google to shut down because of the lack of censorship. The case for Google voluntarily pulling out of China completely is complicated. Things are always complicated when trying to deal with dictatorships and repressive regimes.