A classmate of mine recently discovered the way China censors its citizens and has started a blog to document that censorship and protest it. While I strongly sympathize with the motive, I also disagree with some of the assertions made. The blog in question is called Global Polemic. In her first flurry of entries she rails against some thing called Realpolitik. Wikipedia defines Realpolitik thusly:
Realpolitik (German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions. The term realpolitik is often used pejoratively to imply politics that are coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian. Realpolitik is a theory of politics that focuses on considerations of power, not ideals, morals, or principles.
In her first posts she declares that she is not a supporter of Realpolitik or power politics. In a subsequent one she rips into Google for censoring itself in order to be allowed to operate in China.
GOOGLE.COM is the ingeneous creators of this Blog and yet, in the shadows, they support the brainwashing techniques of the Chinese Government.
This is all very conspiracy theory, we know, but it IS TRUE.
In an e-mail I responded to her negative view of Realpolitik — of which I take the initial definition, minus the negative connotations — and in specific her view with respect to Google. Here’s the relevant portion of that e-mail:
Take Google’s censoring itself for China for example – which you rail against. Google wants the Chinese people to be able to use its search tool. In order for that to happen it has to employ China’s required censorship. If it doesn’t agree to censor then China simply censors Google as a whole. What good does it do to simply not have Google in China? None. If Google is in China though, then the Chinese will get used to using it. When they travel abroad they will continue to use it, instead of the home grown Chinese search engines. Then they will see what we all see. Otherwise they’ll just keep using the Chinese search engines when they go abroad and continue to be censored. That strategy: realpolitik in action. Accomplishing that which is realistically, practically possible.
Honestly, I’m a little bit nervous posting that here – lest I ruin Google’s grand plan. But we’ll assume that a) I’m not the only one to have spotted that possible motive and posted it and b) the Chinese government isn’t quite that ubiquitous on the web or quite that paranoid. Anyway, my classmate responded on her blog:
While I appreciate the clarification, and my animosity toward this technique is somewhat lessened, it does not change the fact that this tactic, while attempting to accomplish good, is still riding on immoral lines. It negates the fact of intention, and allows power to overcome morality, which I still contest is unacceptable.
Allow me to restate my opinion:
Chinese government’s decision to censor its citizens.
And by not taking a stand and compromising with a negatively-intentioned government,
due to fear of retaliation,
either armed or financial,
we are inadvertantly supporting their decision
to blind its citizens from the truth.
The thing to keep in mind, my knowledgable classmate, is that this is only going to get worse before it gets better. And with our inadvertant support, the Chinese government is going to continue to stretch their power and continue to censor its citizens until we have another Holocaust on our hands.
Alright, let’s stop talking about realpolitik — judging from the flurry of links posted after this quoted section that word just has too many negative connotations for too many people. And I don’t want to fight against those. Yes, I agree that China is wrong to censor its citizens. I agree that no good can come of it. But “taking a stand” a will get us nowhere.
Let’s put it this way, exactly what form would “taking a stand” take? Breaking off all relations with China until they stop censoring their citizens? Well.. we kinda can’t do that, we owe them money. A lot of money. Okay, so how about denouncing them and the way they treat their citizens? Been there, done that. A lot. They either ignore us or denounce us back. And they’re pretty good at making us look like hypocrites. Alright, so what’s left? Attacking them? A war with China would likely turn into another world war, and we’d be lucky if it didn’t become a nuclear war. That’s not an option, they’d lose, we’d lose, the whole world would lose. So that leaves us… what? Not a whole lot.
In fact, the only thing that’s left is to engage with them, talk with them and work with them. We can try to gradually convince them that their tactics are unnecessary and harmful. We can try to gradually get them to relax their restrictions. I don’t honestly know exactly what we can hope to accomplish even by talking to them – I’m no expert on the topic. But I do know that none of the other options get us anywhere and that talking to them is the only thing that is left.