Post Archive for January 2010
U.S. Policy »
Obama on American Competitiveness
The 0verall success or failure of President Obama’s State of the Union address last night won’t be known for some time. Dan Balz of the Washington Post reports that the real issue coming out of the speech is whether Congressional Democrats and Republicans will or won’t change their behavior in the coming months.
But an aspect of the speech that certainly deserves praise was the president’s focus on American competitiveness, including comparisons to China, Germany, and India. It was unusually honest for a president to acknowledge that the U.S. could end up playing second fiddle to another economy if it doesn’t “get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.” This kind of honesty is welcome and overdue.
A New Round of Talks with the Dalai Lama, and U.S. Diplomacy Fails Again
The Dalai Lama’s representatives are beginning a new round of talks with the Chinese government, after a 15-month hiatus. Though this has not been widely reported, the U.S. government is involved in facilitating this round of talks. But despite renewed attention to the Tibetan issue, there is little reason to believe this round of talks is any more likely than before to lead to a breakthrough. Another failure for U.S. diplomacy?
Google’s threat to exit the Chinese market, which I discussed here yesterday in the context of human rights and Google’s corporate interests, has two other important dimensions.
First, there is growing and universal concern in the business community about unfair Chinese business practices (this was previously limited to the manufacturing sector).
Second, we should all be deeply concerned by the massive cyber espionage program China has been developing and deploying, which is aimed at learning inside information on foreign companies and governments.
Gambling for Free Speech, and Losing
Google’s decision yesterday to begin reviewing “the feasibility” of its business operations in China has reverberated around the world, particularly in the high tech sector. Responding to the hacking of its corporate network and the accounts of Chinese human rights activists, Google is threatening to leave the Chinese market entirely, and says it is no longer willing to censor its search results on Google.cn.
What is Google’s strategy here? And what happens next?
Google’s statement reads, to me, like pure frustration and anger, not strategy. Human rights advocates are heartened by this move, which suggests finally that Western countries can stand up to Chinese authorities; but the outcome of this mess is likely to be bad for Google’s corporate interests and detrimental to the goal of developing freedom of speech in China.