What resulted when Google publicly shamed the Chinese government? Greater mistrust of foreign Internet businesses and greater Internet regulation. Can you blame the hard-liners for how they reacted? Google should have publicly praised China for improvements as they happened and suggested that more reforms were needed and pushed behind the scenes. Who could have taken offense at that?
True reform ultimately needs to come from trusted Chinese showing that rules can be revised without negative effect. Change can’t come from foreigners, or from Chinese funded by foreigners. Westerners can and should play key roles in reform, but by offering advice, not arrogant threats, and by presenting examples outside of the system. And always remember that reform is not an easy process. For every two steps forward there is usually one step back.
Change does happen if reform-minded people are given a chance. Look at how piracy is getting better in China. Why? Domestic stakeholders are getting hurt, so they are lobbying for crackdowns. Writers like Han Han have criticized the website Baidu for uploading books without compensation. The online video site Youku has been removing pirated content. The government has shred illicit DVDs across the country.