Ai Weiwei: Google Gives Us Hope
China may have become the second-biggest economy in the world, but its political system remains stuck in the early 20th century. Even as Chinese people’s horizons are broadening, the government clings to a one-party ideology that is hostile to personal freedom. Technology is making possible greater expression and political participation, but that has only prompted the authorities to work harder to stifle these impulses.
All this makes Google’s decision to stop censoring to protect its China operations especially significant. First, it is encouraging for the Chinese people to see that a leading Internet company recognizes that censorship is a violation of basic human rights and values. Such controls damage the core ethos underpinning the Internet… Most discouraging to those of us who are fighting for increased freedom is the tendency for developed nations to lower the bar to please China. They make excuses not to concern themselves with violations of human rights. To espouse universal values and then blind oneself to China’s active hostility to those values is irresponsible and naïve.
… In recent months China has tightened its censorship over every medium, from the Internet to the mainstream media to instant messaging over mobile phones. This is the mark of a government that has lost confidence in its own ideology and is nervous about its power to control its own people. Stopping the free exchange of information ultimately hampers economic growth and opportunity, which is the Chinese government’s main claim to legitimacy. The question then is how a state based on limiting information flows and freedom of speech can remain powerful. And if it can, what kind of monster it will become.
See also past CDT posts on Ai Weiwei.