According to Winston Churchill – whose mother was American – democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
And while America is the land of the free, and quite a liberty bearer generally, it’s not right to assume that what’s sauce for the US goose is sauce for the Chinese gander.
It’s the most ancient culture in the world, and the only way such a vast country could have been governed is through a centralised bureaucracy that certainly paid no heed to what the Greeks were up to with their curious ideas of democracy.
It’s curious, then, that multinationals like Google, Yahoo and for that matter Microsoft naively believed that because China opened itself up to commerce, a centralised government would just blithely gaze on while an opportunity existed for China’s communist government to exploit source code for its own military and cryptic ends.
But it’s also no surprise that the US government is standing back from the Google affair while it sees how the Chinese government reacts to the search engine’s threat.
That’s because there’s one other foundation on which America is built apart from liberty – and that’s capitalism. The USA is in debt to the Chinese government to the tune of not short of a trillion dollars – while Google spouts about its security being breached – it’s not in America’s interests to rock the boat too wildly.
China has overweening ambitions and has the resources to put long term plans into action. For most of 2008, I was working in India, which has espoused democracy, and I would hear a familiar complaint from the business people I talked to all the time.
They wished that India wasn’t a democracy so that the essential infrastructure needed to transform the sub-continent into another Asian powerhouse could be pushed ahead without the will of the people getting in the way of the plans.
No doubt it’s a terrible nuisance to have to take into account the wishes of individuals or parties they form when you want to press ahead with plans that are going to put crores of rupees into your pocket.
China’s stance to foreign companies operating in its country is that they have to obey the laws. China is a dictatorship and its laws aren’t created by an indepedent parliament or congress and moderated by an unfettered judiciary. In such circumstances, the normal rules of British fair play and the principles enshrined in the US Constitution just don’t run.
Google, perhaps, should have thought of this before it put time and energy into the marketplace, and not after the fact.