This lunch time I tried in vein to open the US Consulate Shanghai website, and then I tried the US Embassy in Beijing, and finally any Consulate site in China. They were all BLOCKED! Not like this hasn’t happened before but what really chaps my backside is that neither site had cached versions of the site available! All I need is the stupid phone number (which I later remembered I put into my passport). When I called guess what!!! They are closed after 11:30 on Tuesdays, and seeing yesterday was Memorial Day here, I could not call then for the information I needed. I have talked with some people here over the past few weeks and they tell me the Chinese government routinely blocks access to the US Embassy and Consulate sites. Are the Chinese so afraid their citizens will learn the times and information to go to the US? Is the US putting anti-China propaganda on its sites? More likely this is the work of the internet pawns at MSN, Google, and Cisco that are to blame.
By denying access, refusing to cache pages viewable in another language not only are these companies denying access to information, but causing citizens of a free country trying to conduct regular and routine business undue hardship and frustration. Where can I begin to file my lawsuit! Ok maybe I am taking this a bit too far, but for the love of Pete! All I need to do is call the American Service Center and ask about what paperwork I need to file for my wife and our trip planned next May (remember that it can take up to 1 year for a Chinese citizen to get a tourists or visitors visa to the US). So who is the real criminal here? China does what China wants to do, they are a sovereign government and can do what they like, they are communists of course. But when a company in another country, the country that is the very symbol and freedom and justice for the entire planet (despite how tarnished that has become in the past 24 months), bends to the will of another country to repress information and pander to the whims of the current regime to censor information for not only its citizens but citizens of free countries is completely asinine! If companies are to do international business they should abide by international laws, and only agree to do business when they are not in direct violation of international law, common sense, and the principals the IT industry stands for in the first place… that of delivering information to the masses via technology.
I am not pissed China wants to control the information its citizens see, hell our government does the same thing, but for completely different reasons. They want to maintain control and order, we want to protect and foster responsible journalism… you say potato I say potato… But industry leaders such as Microsoft and Cisco, using their technology and systems, have a responsibility to their customers not the governments the information flowing through their systems goes into. Just because Cisco can block access to web pages at the router level and MSN and Google and block pages at the IP level does not mean they should use it. Is the cost of doing business so great that they can sell their integrity? Does that mean the local pumping stations underground should deny water to certain homes because they are black, white, yellow, brown, red? Does the telephone company have the right to censor your phone conversations; they do monitor them you know.
Remember the immortal words of Stan Lee, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ How much longer will the communists’ party hold power in China? The WTO rules come into play here soon, Shanghai is already a primarily capitalistic region, more and more foreign companies are coming here, globalization is bringing more free thought, ideas, and perspectives into these areas via coffee shops, theaters, black market DVD and CD sales, discos, bars, strip clubs, golf courses, hell it’s a cornucopia of free moving information here now and it can’t be stopped. Soon the young here will wonder exactly why they need the government, as it really isn’t doing anything for them anymore. I give the government 10 years tops. It seems they are slowly transitioning to a capitalistic society where supply and demand are common place, not the rules of old every worker works for the betterment of themselves and their neighbor. They see the TV programs, movies, art, fashion and they want it now. The government wants to avoid a Russia type situation where there is chaos, collapse, and a long and hard rebuilding period. Now China moves slow, but it moves… and change is in the air. People here do not want protection; they want inclusion… into the world community and economy. So where does that put MSN, Google, and Cisco??? It puts them into the unique position of being the first in China, but into the world of suspicion across the globe. If they are willing to block information for China, are they collecting information for the CIA? Are they blocking information for other countries? How dishonest are they? How far do they go? How much trust can you put into a company which engages into such shady practices? WTF is a bottom line worth compared to integrity and reputation and respectability in the IT community??? Just ask the CEOs and GMs of these companies, they will tell you as the responsibility of their company’s actions rests on their shoulders! So take that censors and I hope your stocks plummet in 10 years and your companies are footnotes in corporate history when my children are in school.