Google’s unfolding confrontation with China may be nearing critical mass. Its efforts to stand its ground involve high stakes for both foreign businesses and governments facing Beijing’s ire. China’s leaders will inevitably draw important conclusions about whether they have essentially unfettered sway over outsiders, as over their own subjects. \nIn an accommodating gesture to Beijing last week, Google users in China must now “click” on a link to be redirected to Google’s Hong Kong facilities, which are not subject to Chinese censorship. \nSince Google first threatened to exit the China search market unless censorship obligations were lifted and then explicitly repudiated censorship in March, searches that originated in China had been automatically routed to Google Hong Kong. \nGoogle’s license to operate in China expired on June 30, with Beijing considering its application for renewal. Google’s recent concession might be enough for China to extend the license, thus allowing both sides to avoid an all-or-nothing outcome. \nJust as Henry IV casually embraced Catholicism to become France’s King, noting that “Paris is well worth a Mass,” Google perhaps concluded, in Internet terms, that “China is well worth a click.” \nDespite the conciliatory move, China responded by partially blocking some of Google’s search functions. Moreover, Beijing sycophants quickly rejected the one-click model. \n“Google needs China more than China needs Google,” as one Chinese professor at Oxford put it, toeing the Chinese line. \nIn contrast, the New York Times, editorially siding with free expression if not necessarily with US business, rightly observed, “a censored Google is worse than no Google at all.” \nCensorship alone, however, is not the issue, but rather the broader problem of unfettered, apparently limitless Chinese regulatory and trade restraints, and the heretofore largely supine reaction of foreign firms and governments. \nAlthough not directly related to Google’s struggle, other businesses are now publicly expressing their own discontent. Shortly after Google’s refusal to censor searches, GoDaddy.com rejected new regulations requiring disclosure of personal data from prospective Internet domain holders. \nAs the largest global registrar of Internet domain names, GoDaddy’s decision not to register new Chinese Web sites, although purportedly unrelated to Google, was nonetheless another significant outburst of “just saying no” to Beijing’s control efforts. \nLast week, General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt said he felt Chinese “hostility” toward foreign investors, and said: “I really worry about China ... I am not sure that in the end they want any of us to win or any of us to be successful.” \nImmelt’s assessment was something of a reversal from his boastful assessment last year: “I don’t think anybody has played China better than GE has.” \nImmelt’s comments echoed Joerg Wuttke, former head of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, who said in April: “Many foreign businesses in the country feel as though they have run up against an unexpected and impregnable blockade.” \nMoreover, the EU chamber’s just-released business confidence survey reflects earlier complaints by the US chambers in Beijing and Hong Kong that foreign firms trying to do business in China face increased discrimination in favor of Chinese-owned firms. \nOminously, on Monday, a US citizen was sentenced to eight years in prison for dealing in “state secrets” relating to China’s oil industry, despite protests from US President Barack Obama to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). \nConsidering these puzzle pieces together, a clearer perception emerges about China’s objectives, which are both political and economic. \nOn Internet issues, for example, Beijing’s censorship and identity requirements could force foreign firms out of China, thus affording a WTO-proof protectionist strategy benefiting indigenous companies, under political camouflage that much of the non-Western world will simply shrug off. \nBeyond the Internet, non-tariff Chinese protectionism comes in many forms: Reverse engineering technology and then duplicating it without licensing; ignoring copyright and trademark protections; discriminatory transportation, storage and marketing regulations; harsh criminal punishments and other techniques in a lengthy list which China seems to be mastering. \nMost individual companies, even mighty global icons or foreign business associations have until now deemed it impossibly risky or economically unacceptable to engage in a head-to-head struggle with Beijing. However, the issue today is whether this recalcitrance is changing, and whether China’s apparent implacability is real or rests on the shared perception that foreign business can be easily intimidated. \nThat is why Google’s initially routine regulatory dispute has potentially profound implications. The ramifications extend to whether capitalists in China, particularly foreigners, will perennially be mere supplicants in China. \nGovernments in policy disputes with Beijing should also wonder if that is forever their fate or whether a little spine now might pay off later. As British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher might say to Washington once again, now is not the time to go all wobbly. \nJohn Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
The National Immigration Agency on Monday confirmed that the majority of foreign residents in Taiwan would once again be excluded from the government’s stimulus voucher program. The NT$5,000 Quintuple Stimulus Voucher would be available to 140,000 foreign spouses of Taiwanese and 16,000 Alien Permanent Resident Certificate holders, but about 870,000 Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) holders would be excluded from the program, regardless of whether they pay taxes. The government has not offered any explanation, but some have speculated that the intention is to prevent migrant workers from receiving the vouchers. Many migrant workers are from Southeast Asian countries and work as
Within the span of a generation, a new super-rich class emerges from a society in which millions of rural migrants toiled away in factories for a pittance. Bribery becomes the most common mode of influence in politics. Opportunists speculate recklessly in land and real estate. Financial risks simmer as local governments borrow to finance railways and other large infrastructure projects. All of this is happening in the world’s most promising emerging market and rising global power. No, this is not a description of contemporary China, but rather of the US during the Gilded Age, from about 1870 to 1900. This
I first met Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in 1999, when I was Acting Director of AIT, as Darryl Johnson had just left and Ray Burghardt had not yet arrived. She was a young aide for then-President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). President Lee just had enunciated a new theory, which came to be known as the “state-to-state” principle, in an interview with a German newspaper. Beijing had predictably gone berserk and was trying to get Washington to come down heavily on President Lee. In the midst of all this, Tsai and I met to discuss the situation. I took a liking to this
It might have been an inelegantly, even ineptly, executed pivot, gratuitously alienating key allies, but by leaving Afghanistan and forming a security pact with Australia and the UK in the Indo-Pacific, US President Joe Biden has at least cleared the decks to focus on his great foreign policy challenge — the systemic rivalry with China. Yet the concern now is how quickly this rivalry could escalate, especially regarding Taiwan. The linchpin of the US alliance system in south-east Asia, Taiwan is the biggest island in the first island chain, the group of islands that keeps China blocked in. It is China’s