Wednesday, January 13, 2010

china, google, and tom friedman

In the "same newspaper, same day" category: Tom Friedman has a column today on how effectively China's leaders are managing their economy, while page A1 of the Times has a story on how Google--not known for political courage--may leave China in response to censorship by the Chinese Government. It seems that someone, presumably with Government approval, launched a sophisticated barrage of cyberattacks aimed at shutting down the gmail [Google] accounts of political dissidents. The Times and other news outlets reported the story . . . and were themselves censored by the Chinese authorities.

One has to wonder, if China is doing so well, what are the authorities so afraid of? One possibility is that they are smarter than their western admirers, and recognize that the latest crop of positive statistics (China passes Japan, Chinese buy more cars than Americans) may be less significant than sometimes thought: or, to borrow the language of financial prospectuses, past performance is no guarantee of future results. It may be that there are simply too many censors in China with too little work to do. Whatever the case, it would seem that the time for wide-eyed, 1960s-style fawning over Chinese achievements should be long past: and the time for realistic assessment, which recognizes the magnitude of Chinese accomplishments but also how far the country still has to go, long overdue.


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