The censorship squad in Beijing has got to be going crazy right now.
The European Community made the case earlier this year that censorship is a trade barrier. That means governments that engage in censorship of the Internet are in violation of trade agreements from simple bilateral accords to the whopper World Trade Organization.
Countries like China fought to get into the WTO to ease their sales into other trading countries. At the time, China said it was willing and ready to play by the rules of the rest of the world.
Of course, they only meant the “build cheap, sell expensive” and “Buy from me but I don’t have to buy form you” rules. Nobody mentioned anything about opening up access to information.
It was inevitable, however. Free and fair trade can only exist when there is also free exchange of information and data. The Chinese government understands that somewhat. They loosened some controls over foreign media access to China. More Western — non-Chinese government — publications are available to more Chinese people. And even some Chinese pubications are able to report more freely about economic and business issues. (But not social or political ones.)
But the Old Guard continues to hold enough power in the government to keep trying to control Internet access in China. But there has been push-back they never expected.
- The government failed to force all computers in China to install the stolen software Green Dam.
- Google refused to play ball by self-censoring information through its web site
- Hackers who provide ways around the Great Chinese Firewall are treated like rock stars by computer users.
And now trade, the lifeblood of economic well-being in China is under attack.
Basically the Europeans have told China: “Censor the Internet and we will file unfair trade practices against you.”
And now the U.S. has joined in. And Google is helping. (Google helps build trade case over Web censorship)
The usually boring trade issue stories now have GEEK APPEAL. It would be nice to see if some U.S. reporters — national and local — pick up on this technology and trade issue.
- How is censorship unfair trade?
- What does it mean for U.S. and local businesses?
- How has the Internet made getting cheaper goods easier? Harder?
- How has the Internet affected how people do business with suppliers from around the globe?
Just a few questions. Let’s see if anyone asks them.