by February 1, 2010 0 comments



There’s no polite way to put this. China is a rogue nation, a military
dictatorship masquerading as a people’s government. It is an apparent economic
success in the short term, but its aspiration to become an economic superpower
is not compatible with its political model. That’s a system backed not by the
people’s will, but by raw military power. The guiding principles are control,
and paranoia. All media, all information, is censored. If you politely disagree
with the system, you are locked up for eleven years, if you’re lucky. If you
were in China writing what I am writing here, you would simply disappear.

So when the world’s most influential tech company from the world’s most
influential nation bowed to this political system and launched a self-censored
Google.cn search in January 2006, it wasn’t sustainable. It was also
incompatible with Google’s corporate motto, Don’t Be Evil. Even with Google’s
justification that “increased access to information for people in China and a
more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some
results”.

Search for Tiananmen Square-on Google.com, you get tanks and bloodshed
(http://bit.ly/TMS-reg), but on Google.cn you get flowers and sunshine (http://bit.ly/TMS-ch).

Prasanto K Roy
pkr@cybermedia.co.in is Chief Editor
of CyberMedia’s ICT Publications.

So even if David Drummond’s January 12 blog post, “A new approach to China”
(http://bit.ly/Goog-ch) shocked some people, it wasn’t completely unexpected.
Google’s top lawyer’s words were careful: “In mid-December, we detected a
sophisticated attack on our corporate infrastructure… from China… what at
first appeared to be solely a security incident…was something quite
different.” His meaning was clear: the Chinese government was targeting mail
accounts of human rights activists in China. And that it had “routinely
accessed” the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists around the
world.

Google, with 31% of the China Internet search market, isn’t number one:
that’s Baidu, the home-grown web portal (58% share), and Baidu will be the
biggest gainer if Google pulls out. The Chinese government will be a close
second, getting rid of a potential thorn in its side, albeit one that is
self-blunted. China is an enormous online market, which claims to have jumped
28% in a year to 384 Internet users, powered mainly by a 120 million jump in
mobile Internet users, who reached 233 million.

But that’s not all. Time was when Russia wore the mantle of the world’s top
rogue hacker nation, but China has overtaken it. (The US, with its NSA, CIA and
other agencies, is more subtle and sophisticated and maybe even more effective
as a hacker nation; Israel is more focused.)

Like the low-intensity conflict on India’s borders, China has been waging a
low-intensity cyberwar against India and other nations, against businesses even
as it plays host to them, and against all those that it views as enemies,
including human rights activists and dissidents on its own soil. Multinationals
have chosen to ignore this, trading some discomfort for economic gain. China
continues to bet that as long as it stays below a certain threshold, it will get
away with it. It’s a dangerous game that can backfire, and they may have just
crossed that line with Google. But they’ve pushed the envelope way more with
India. Our national security adviser has admitted only to Chinese attacks on the
prime minister’s office; there is no way our military would admit to falling
prey to cyber attacks. The next wars will be fought not with conventional or
nuclear weapons, but in cyberspace. Despite our infotech prowess, India is the
Athens to China’s Sparta. We are ill equipped to fight this war.

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