Friday, March 26, 2010

Google decides foreign policy in China

By Kimberly Jorgensen for Baltimore Foreign Policy Examiner
March 24, 1:18 PM

Who makes foreign policy? The textbook answer would of course be that the federal government makes foreign policy. But that answer is only partially true, as Google’s recent announcement regarding its operations in China shows.

The question of cyber privacy has been a big issue in US Chinese foreign policy for the last several years, as US companies such as Google and Yahoo created Chinese search engines. In 2006 and 2007, Yahoo was brought before the US Congress twice with regards to its Chinese operations after the communist party convicted journalist Shi Tao, a leading human rights activist in China, of illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities. Chinese law enforcement officers required Yahoo to turn over certain information used in Shi Tao’s prosecution. While Yahoo did not break any US laws in supplying this information to the Chinese police, it did receive much criticism throughout the US, including from Congress.

Since this event, it appears that the Chinese government is no longer content with merely asking for information. In December 2009, according to the official Google blog, over twenty US companies operating in China have been subject to sophisticated cyber attacks that appear to have emanated from the Chinese government. Google’s investigation determined that the attack was aimed at retrieving access to the gmail accounts of several prominent Chinese human rights activists.

On January 12, 2010 Google announced that it may shut down its China operations. Two days ago, Google announced their final decision: that they were shutting down mainland China operations and allowing uncensored searches in simplified Chinese through its Hong Kong servers.

The US government’s response to Google’s January accusations was to ask the Chinese government for an explanation. The millions of dollars that the US spends in China on human rights and the inter-governmental communication do little to effect the situation in China. The real policy makers appear to be the IT companies in Silicon Valley.

Questions to Ponder:
  1. How important is the view of enterprise and companies in China's Foreign policy??

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