The biggest losers in the China/Google debacle? Students

The biggest losers in the China/Google debacle? Students

Summary: Students in the United States and much of the developed world use Google all the time. 2 or 3 of them actually know how to do an effective search and evaluate the vast amounts of data that the GOOG happily spiders for them.

TOPICS: Google, Apps, China

Students in the United States and much of the developed world use Google all the time. 2 or 3 of them actually know how to do an effective search and evaluate the vast amounts of data that the GOOG happily spiders for them. OK, maybe more than 2 or 3, but even if that's the case, a whole lot of students use Google's free tools, whether through a Google Edu Apps deployment at their school or through a blog they write on Blogger.

Interestingly, in the United States we worry a great deal about losing our competitive edge, particularly to China and other Asian nations. And while the general state of our STEM education makes this threat very real, our students largely have unfettered access to powerful Web 2.0 (and 3.0) technologies as well as nearly infinite stores of information, often thanks to Google. That information and the tools that accompany it, can be harness and turned into knowledge in really powerful ways, ways that won't be realized in China any time soon if the country's policies don't change and Google exits the country.

There's no doubt that we need to transform many aspects of education in this country. However, the ability to access and use information freely provides us with our own competitive advantage.

Google Apps access in China is spotty at best, as are countless tools like YouTube and Blogger. I'll have more information Thursday on the state of Edu Apps in China once Eastern Standard Time catches up to Pacific Standard Time and I can return a call from the good folks at Google. However, it's quite clear that the tools we take for granted in most developed countries just aren't available behind China's great firewall.

Government agencies don't get hurt by these restrictions. They protect their positions by preventing access. Many businesses don't feel the pain since cheap Chinese labor markets and Western appetites for inexpensive consumables put Chinese businesses into a uniquely strong position.

Students, on the other hand, are the big losers in this mess. If Google pulls out of the country and stops censoring search results (meaning that the Chinese government will block Google entirely), and Yahoo follows suit, Chinese students will be left in even more of an information vacuum. And those wonderful free tools that build collaboration skills, writing prowess, and exercise creativity in schools around the world with only a web browser needed to tap their potential? Not gonna happen.

There isn't much doubt that Google is doing the right thing here. It makes sense both from a principle point of view and from an enterprise security and business standpoint. And frankly, we can use every advantage we can get. However, as long as the Chinese government drives out companies like Google with its Draconian policies, the real losers won't be the companies; the real losers will be Chinese students who lack the tools, experience, and worldview that an open, connected society can provide.

Topics: Google, Apps, China

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Google's Mysterious Threat

    Excerpts from an insightful post on ZeroHedge.


    So in our opinion, what all this posturing boils down to, is the fact that a new and dangerous war-front has opened up - one between the U.S. and China. Currently the war is economic, political and covert in nature. The U.S. government knows that the nations fiscal situation is abysmal and that China holds the trump card over its fate by being its largest creditor.

    In addition faced with rampant joblessness, a weakened U.S. consumer is more dependent that ever, on cheap goods manufactured in China. While cheap Chinese imports allow the Fed to keep a lid on domestic inflation, they do not alleviate rampant U.S. unemployment. Protectionist pressures are growing on a desperate U.S. government struggling to fix the unemployment situation.

    This tussle has led to the imposition of trade sanctions against Chinese companies on non-strategic sectors like certain steel and tire imports. To top this situation neo-con hawks in the U.S. government and military accustomed to the nation being the world's sole super power, fear the rapid rise of China. They fear the global domination of a Communist nation and this in turn has led to naval and airspace incursions into Chinese territory by the U.S. military, as well as the geo-political blockages by the U.S. to severe Chinese access to the world's mineral and oil resources. The current crisis in the Middle East an oil rich region is a direct result of this strategy.

    As the economic situation deteriorates, these tensions are only going to escalate. While the U.S. government is not going to start a military excursion with China anytime soon, strategy hawks know that one way to slow the rise of China and reduce its grip on America's economic collar is to create a suitable diversion for the Chinese government. The U.S. intelligence apparatus, which has several decades of experience staging coups and overthrowing democratically elected governments across the world, is now staging a similar policy with China.

    China's non-democratic set-up and autocratic communist party rule is its Achilles heel in its rise as the world's leading economy. With China's economy deeply intertwined with declining U.S. consumption, huge swaths of its population who are employed in manufacturing and related sectors stand to lose their jobs. Couple this with the fact that there exists a complete lack of democracy, freedom and human rights in China. The Chinese government knows that young unemployed people, especially those whose rights have been suppressed, always make a deadly cocktail. It wants to avoid setting off this bomb at any cost. The Chinese government has unfortunately responded to this threat by clamping down on information provided via the internet.

    And this is the loophole the U.S. government is now trying to exploit in its pursuit to weaken China. This explains the recent "freedom of speech" campaign launched by the U.S. to "educate" the Chinese people to revolt against their own government. Barack Obama fired the first salvo when he visited China last year where he told a town hall gathering that he was "a big supporter of non-censorship". He went on to state that "These freedoms of expression, and worship, of access to information and political participation - we believe they are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities, whether they are in the United States, China or any nation."

    Now the State Department along with Google (whose CEO Eric Schmidt is a huge supporter of Obama) have joined the "freedom of speech" chorus, which will only grow louder in the coming days.

    We would like to point out to our reader that we do not support China's autocratic suppression of its people's freedoms. What we are merely trying to point out here is that there a deeper strategic (and frankly on some level inherently evil) rather than altruistic motive behind Google and President Obama's "freedom of speech and democracy" lecturing.

    If China is truly to try to become a global power it needs to willingly unleash democratic forces within its borders. The Chinese government would be safer doing this on their own terms rather than have their hand forced by American propaganda (at which point widespread civil unrest in China is a given). The Chinese people would do well to pay attention.
  • RE: The biggest losers in the China/Google debacle? Students

    I think Chris don't know one thing, many Chinese netizens will try to break through the Great Firewall to access the information they would like to read. Just like how student in school try to bypass the firewall at school.
  • RE: The biggest losers in the China/Google debacle? Students

    Education is much different from anti-goverment ideas and pornography, which is really what is being blocked. The stuff that students REALLY need is still accessible in China. There is no real loss.
  • Can't get to that site? Blocked? Tunnel your way to it.

    Sites like let users create free shell accounts.

    The catch is you have to first find one on your side of the China firewall (ping).

    Then you can register and use one of the best features built into ssh (Secure Shell)--socks5 proxy.

    If you type from a terminal window:

    $ssh -D 8080

    (input your password)

    you should see the site's shell prompt as confirmation that you have set up a proxy over ssh.

    Socks5 is better than Socks4 in that it also tunnels your DNS requests as well as http to the proxy server.

    You then need to open your browser's settings and point the browser to the localhost or using port 8080.

    If you then refresh your browser say going to, it should show an ip in the region of Alabama, USA.

    Windows users can download Cygwin and have ssh at their disposal.

    Be Safe.
    D T Schmitz
  • Who the heck cares?

    China has shown the world that it is willing to attack your networks to get what they want without really giving a damn. And they have also shown that they have no interest in letting their country out from under the grip either.

    Why should we cater to them, if all they are going to do is attack back?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • There are good decent people, students in China, like yourself Nicholas

      D T Schmitz
  • RE: The biggest losers in the China/Google debacle? Students

    Yes, poor Chinese students... but I believe it is Google to blame, not the Chinese gov.. A few years ago, Google agreed the Chinese rules with the greedy eyes on the huge market potential in China... Now foreseeing a failing competition, Google starts looking for an excuse -- a communist gov is always an easy target... Poor Chinese students, Google never cared about them...