The Google escalation and open source

The Google escalation and open source

Summary: A government-driven cut-off of online ties, should it come, would make it very hard to do open source business, since it would raise costs and limit collaboration. In that way open source is the "peace dividend" both sides want to protect.


Google's decision to go public on China's efforts to control its own Internet, and people, by every means necessary may become Hillary Clinton's Cuban missile crisis.

That's because missiles don't win wars anymore. Wars are fought economically. They can be just as destructive as before, but in the Internet age they will be based on Internet means.

The BBC is calling this a battle of the blogs, many pundits are yawning loudly, but this is as serious as a heart attack. The world economy hinges on the U.S.-China relationship. And that relationship rides on the Internet.

The real question is whether the Internet will be an international network or a collection of national networks. This has been obscured by two key realities. China's control of its Internet is not nearly as complete as it appears, and western support for a global network that can bypass national laws is not as great as it appears, either.

The present incident was born of this yin and yang.

China still sees free thought as a threat to its security. Google knows better. It is laying down this marker from a position of relative strength -- the present Administration is far more supportive of Internet freedom (and open source) than its predecessor.

Its timing is also good. Critics like to say that China owns us. But when you hold enough of a bank's debt you own the bank. It's this debt that is the weapon of mass destruction in the present crisis. And it's in our hands, not theirs.

Open source depends on these networks remaining open. A government-driven cut-off of online ties, should it come, would make it very hard to do open source business, since it would raise costs and limit collaboration. In that way open source is the "peace dividend" both sides want to protect.

China also needs the competition Google provides. Without it sites like Baidu will become lazy. Despite its huge market it could easily fall behind on features and functions, ironically making it vulnerable to cyber attack.

No one wants cyber-war, but there are differences in the American and Chinese approach to the Internet, and to economic questions generally, that need to be managed. Whether weiji (above) truly means both danger and opportunity, this crisis is indeed both.

The question now is whether the Administration will seize it or just try to muddle through.

Topics: China, Browser, Google, Networking, Open Source

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  • "making it vulnerable to cyber attack"?

    it allready happened. That's why they're leaving.
    John Zern
    • "And it's in our hands, not theirs."

      Dude, all it takes is for China to dump maybe 100 billions of treasury then you'd know whose hand it is in.

      Google is forgetting about themselves. The reason there is this temporary (albeit unsustainable) recovery that sends GOOG back to 600/share area is b/c foreign investors are financing it by purchasing treasury so Obama has money to spend. The minute they cut it off, and don't think they forever appetite of US debt, Google will know who is the boss pretty soon.
      • Dollar-yuan

        Anything that China does to sink the dollar also
        sinks the value of all their dollar-denominated
        investments. That's what I mean about owning the

        China can't act precipitously in this regard or
        else it creates social unrest, which there is no
        way to handle given its centralized situation.
        • Social unrest

          Let me give you an example of how China handled social issues. Back in the 90's when they started to gear up the capitalism form of economy, they had a huge burden on their shoulder: A big nationalized industry w/ tens of millions workers inherited from Mao's era.

          You know how they solved the problem? Well, they literally dumped all of them on street overnight w/ a pink slip. "You guys are a burden so we cut you off!", exactly the kinda stuff we should have pulled off last year on Wall St, Fannie & Freddie and Detroit yet too bad we didn't have big enough balls to do so.

          Bottomline don't think you have China where you want it. It's true a dollar crash does them no good as their 2T holdings will go down the toilet, but this thing goes both ways. While their Dollars go down in value, their YUAN appreciates a ton and they can afford buy a lot of things w/ it, which is what debt-free does for you. Too bad we don't understand that.
        • Umm, they drive tanks over their citizens

          If they dumped the US dollar and 100 million people (armed with pitchforks) started to riot, they would use their military to kill them, no questions asked!

          If 10 million Americans (armed with assault rifles) started rioting, your Government couldn't use the military to kill them, without starting a civil war. Couple that with the fact that most of your military is in the Middle East and your Government couldn't take any action, even if they wanted to.

    • Making China vulnerable

      If China loses touch with the best western
      engineering has to offer regarding the Internet --
      if it successfully cuts itself off -- my point is
      it becomes vulnerable. Not Google.
  • Doing business with China...

    is a risk and their is no other way to think of it. If wars are fought economically then we have lost. Between the trade deficit and the jobs we have sent overseas, our country is much weaker. And those that have profited by these actions will find that eventually they will only profit if the foreign government wants them to. Do you really want a world economy if it is truly a war? Ultimately, we can't win that kind of a war because we don't know how to control our greed and we don't know how to do without if we have to. China is one of the poorest per capita countries in the world. They know how to do both.

    If we are at war economically, we are in trouble.
    • We are always at war economically

      Free enterprise makes economic war a constant, for
      all countries. Many have lost catastrophically
      just in the last decade. Fortunately not us. Yet.

      I generally prefer economic war, with all its
      dangers, to the other kind. Another way to see
      economic war is capitalism.
  • The chinese should learn from the SCO lesson

    if you mess with OSS, you are doomed!
    Nobody can resist the community and its army of volunteers.
    Linux Geek
    • google != oss. They hate the idea of sharing their mods with the community

      Don't be fooled by their giving away software that shows their ads...
      Johnny Vegas
    • Really, have you heard of the firing squad?

      Still very popular in China. I suspect the "open source" desire means very little when you are facing a firing squad or 50 years in a labor prison.
      • As opposed to our Gulag?

        America imprisons far more people, as a
        percentage of our population, than China. Oh,
        yes, they were all convicted in fair trials. So
        were China's prisoners, according to the

        And don't get me started on the death penalty, a
        highly popular means of social control in both
        places. How many white folks are we putting to
        death, for instance? Not that many, as compared
        to black and brown folks. And how many rich
        folks? Zero. Nada. Zilch. The difference between
        an American multi-millionaire and a member of
        the People's Committee is not so large as it may
        appear from your ideological point of view.

        So please get off your moral high horse and join
        the rest of us here on the ground.
    • RE: The Google escalation and open source

      Whether weiji (above) truly means both danger and opportunity, this crisis is indeed both.<a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> a</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> b</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> c</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> d</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> e</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> f</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> g</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> h</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> i</font></a><a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> j</font></a>
  • Spoken like a Westerner.

    You make the wild assumption that China is wrong in how it governs its people and hold up the US (west) as the right way to do things. You would do well to remember the US is a "kid" compared to China and while it's government is very different, there is nothing to suggest its not as "good" as governments in the west. Face it, we have LOTS of problems of our own and American rights and liberties are being pushed aside daily as our government gains control over its peoples. Trust me when I tell you that if you start talking about overthrowing the US government they are going to come knocking on your door in a heartbeat. We are a lot less "free" than you would make it out. If you think our own government doesn't spy on our internet use you are kidding yourself.

    Additionally, China is a soveriegn nation wioth every right to decide how it will govern itself and the laws it puts in place. If they shold decide that Google (or anyone else) must remove all annonymity that then is their choice and Google's (or anyone else's) response is to either comply or close the doors. I seriously doubt that a US companies desire to make money really means much to China.
    • wrong on a couple of counts

      "noax" is wrong on a couple of counts, as usual.

      First, China's government is significantly younger than that of the USA.

      Second, the notion that a "nation" can be "soveriegn" is repugnant. People are sovereign. "Nations" are just convenient collections of people which serve specific useful purposes. When the "nation" -- which is to say, the minority of people who wield the monopoly on force we call "government" -- ceases to serve the actual sovereign power (the people), then the people step up and get rid of it. The people of China did that three times in the 20th century. Anyone who thinks that it can't happen here is fooling themselves.

      (It *won't* happen unless things get so bad that moving to Haiti looks like a good idea, but that's not the point.)
      • What history are you reading?

        Yes, there have been civil uprisings in China but in the end nothing really changed. As to the argument China is not a soveriegn nation, you are just being silly. Its their country, they make the laws there, end of story.
      • Eh?

        China had an empire, long before Europeans discovered America. They have only recently become a "Super Power", economically and militarily (they have long-range missiles and "Nukes").

    • I'm flabbergasted to find myself agreeing with No_Ax_to_Grind ;

      a bit of humility with regard to how countries other than the United States - or in my case, Sweden - govern themselves wouldn't be out of place. We are all, of course, entitled to our own opinions, but it doesn't hurt if those opinions are based upon a knowledge of the countries or regions concerned, as well as our own. The real problem is that, when it comes to the US, dissatisfaction with other countries tends to be expressed in military terms - not unnatural, perhaps, when one disposes over a military budget as great as or greater than that of the rest of the world combined. In any event, as No_Ax points out, it is for the country concerned, not foreign corporations, to determine the conditions under which the latter can work. And if these conditions are not satisfactory, then it is not up to foreign corporations, but rather the people of that country to modify them. Remember that the term 'banana republic' in which foreign corporations like United Fruit controlled the government, was not designed to be a compliment....

    • I don't entirely disagree

      My disagreement is a practical one, not a
      philosophical one. Any nation that enforces
      thought control loses flexibility. Flexibility
      is key to success in a market economy.

      Manufacturing is a far less flexible way to make
      money than information processing. Information
      processing makes flexibility essential if you're
      to compete.

      So while China can do what it wants, it's going
      to lose in a world of accelerating change if it
      does so, just as the Soviets did. And for the
      same reason.
      • thought control ?

        I would assume every nation, and really every individual attempts thought control to some degree or another.

        If fact, what are you doing when you are writing an article, are you not trying to control our thoughts, (what we think about) by you're words and actions.

        Google does not make it's money from information processing, they provide a popular (and free) service, (like free to air television) but you pay for it with the extra expense you get with every product that spends it's money on advertising.

        If you go to google, and you get a add on the page, the company that is paying for that add, passes that cost onto everyone who buys that product, regardless of if it was from the google add or not.

        So everyone pays for google, when they buy products and services. Even if you dont use google.

        You might not read a billboard, but you certainly pay for the cost of that billboard if you buy that product.

        It's advertising, not information processing that makes google it's money.

        That money is derived from manufactures of products, so google is financed by commerce and manufacturing.

        Without manufacturing, there would be no sales, no money for advertisments and no google to get page hits.

        So google is funded by manufacturing, the term products and services, are something you pay for, google uses a free service to sell product.

        I even look at this web page as I type, and I see "supermicro servers" "visa debit card" and so on.

        So this web page does the same thing as google, you provide articles to get people in and you make you're money from advertising, from manufacturers or service provides, commercial companies.

        What companies, can you list that make their income from "information processing" ??

        Im thinking, IBM, no they make product of servers, Oracle, no they sell product like databases.

        Red Hat, they provide IT support services (not information processing).

        Google, no, they are an advertising company,

        even ZDNET followes that business model, providing a product to get page hits, and selling advertising space, you (ZD) is in direct competition with google, for advertising dollars.

        Where is the business model for "JUST" information processing.

        Mabey some super computing facilities may be considered commercial information processing companies, everyone else is either products or services or advertising products and services.

        Information processing, what does that exactly mean to you?

        Products process information, you acquire products that are capable of information processing, and you're done.

        So again, where is the business model that is more flexible that manufacturing, or services (plumber, electrician, Database manufacturer, garbage collection, government, hospitals and so on are "services". yes, many of those services and manufactures use information processing to help them achieve their real goals of manufacture of products or the providing of servies.

        And ofcourse advertising IS THOUGHT CONTROL, traffic lights are thought control. I dont see you're point, if you want to look at it realistically.