In the run-up to today's move by Google to switch Google.cn to Google.hk and get around China's content filters, I have been struggling to understand talkbacks indicating many of my countrymen appear to be rooting for China.
The obvious answer is they fear the Google. Google will give you as much power as you give it, take as much data as it is given, asking only to run ads against the results.
But for many Americans this is too much. They see Google as trying to profit from their private data and (more important) see it as destroying privacy. How can you have secrets when Google can reveal them?
That's an interesting point, but it seems to me it's aimed more at the Internet itself than at Google. The vacuuming and sorting of data has always been inherent in the Internet promise. You have little choice but to obey the call. If an employer can't Google you hard questions are asked. (I'm looking at you, John Smith.)
There is a second reason for cheering on China.
Google is soft power. The hallmark of Obama Administration foreign policy is using "soft power" -- that is, everything we have short of war. Our words, our financial might, our style, our sassy.
Many Americans don't believe in soft power. It's a political stance. They believe in hard power, in guns and "the troops." They see any success of soft power as threatening troop levels and military budgets.
Here is a third reason to hope Google loses.
Many don't want it to win the argument. And there will be an argument. The real argument may be hidden behind rhetoric, "freedom" on one side and "order" on the other.
But disquieting questions can be asked. You say we try to manage the thoughts of our people -- what about your Texas School Board? We don't filter out Thomas Jefferson. They do. All governments and societies do such things. Australia does.
You say we prohibit bad thoughts. What's wrong with that? You like child pornography? You want to give free rein to Islamic terrorists? Neither do we. The location of these borders are questions of national sovereignty.
The struggle between freedom and order, the border of freedom and license, of order and tyranny, is not a black-and-white struggle, the Chinese will say. It is shades of gray. Denying us our color palette is an assault on us.
These are hard questions. But they are worthwhile questions. An honest discussion of them could be beneficial to everyone, Chinese and American alike.
If Google is really smart it will sponsor such discussions. Given the deep opposition of so many in America to what it is doing, dialogue seems to be its only hope of victory.