Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Today's column by Thomas Friedman in the NYT made the proverbial light bulb go on over my head. Tom talks about two Chinese economies that exist side-by-side: "Command China," which is the Communist Party and affiliates; and "Network China," represented by internet-savvy entrepreneurial companies, mostly in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It's an interesting column, worth reading.

The light bulb in question is related to the item I posted a few days ago; Google taking on the Chinese government over internet censorship and using Google searches to go after Chinese dissidents. I think the internet Pandora's Box has been opened in China, and the result has to be a major change in Chinese society. Google just might be the proxy Western World Warrior that pushes things to the tipping point.

I've thought about a young Chinese woman who became our friend in Beijing; let's call her Ginger. Ginger left China shortly after we were there to go to university in Australia and get a degree in business. She was soon on Facebook, and I imagine she uses the internet a lot for school and social networking. What will it be like for Ginger when she returns to Beijing and finds that her internet access - her googling - isn't the same as it was in Australia because her government blocks certain sites? Multiply this by many thousands of young Chinese who go abroad for school, and the large numbers in-country who are able to find ways around the government censorship.

Global information sharing and social networking is the new reality, and the future. The technology moves much faster than most of us have the mental capacity to match. The future looks very different from the now, and it will be a changed context from the present. I see the disconnect between the old and the new/future as a major driver of conflict in the world today. Extreme forms of nationalism, religion, and politics try to preserve the past from the onslaught of the future, and this is a losing battle. Within a generation or two from now, many of the "battles" of the day - such as gay marriage, Jihadism and all the others - will seem silly.

The Communist rulers of the Peoples Republic of China will hang on for as long as they can, and from what we've seen, it could turn brutal and ugly. But change is inevitable, and the internet - driven by the Google giant - is the change agent.

1 comment:

  1. An addendum: my post is not meant to say that China should become a US-style democracy instead of what it is. Wouldn't it be great if China evolved into something newer and better?