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Commentary

Google's Gamble Could Harm China Most

Google's decision to challenge China's censorship policy is seen by a number of China experts as a no-win situation.
Google's decision to challenge China's censorship policy is seen by a number of China experts as a no-win situation.As Miguel Helft puts it in a New York Times article today, "The company's public repudiation of censorship in China has put the authorities there in a position where a forceful rebuke of Google may be all but inevitable."

The impact on Google's other business interests in China is already evident: Google delayed the launch of two Android phones by China Unicom until its prospects in the country become clearer.

But Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu argues that Google's rejection of censorship may harm China more than Google in the long run.

In a panel discussion on Wednesday about the Google-China conflict at the New America Foundation, Wu said that blocking Google could jeopardize China's standing in the World Trade Organization and hinder the development of China's information sector.

Wu hedged his comments by observing that "we are seeing the world moving away from the global Internet to a series of national networks."

That's always a possibility, but turning inward hasn't served China well in the past.

The question now before Washington, and hopefully one that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will address in her speech about Internet freedom tomorrow, is the extent to which we will link physical trade with electronic trade.

If China won't open its market to information, Western democracies ought to respond in kind by closing their markets to Chinese goods.

But fair and open trade would be a better option for everyone.



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