Support freedom

I was struck by this paragraph from a letter by Chinese elder statesman criticizing the censorship by the current regime there, as quoted in The Times:

“At the turning point in our history from a totalitarian to a constitutional system, depriving the public of freedom of speech will bring disaster for our social and political transition and give rise to group confrontation and social unrest,” the letter said. “Experience has proved that allowing a free flow of ideas can improve stability and alleviate social problems.”

Well, if Chinese Communists get this, you’d hope that American capitalists and media executives would.

What’s also fascinating is that — irony, o, irony — it’s capitalism that may bring freedom of speech after all: market pressure and free speech. Say The Times:

Even most of the major party-run national publications in China, including China Youth Daily, no longer receive government subsidies and must depend mainly on income from circulation and advertising to survive.

That means providing more news or features that people want to pay for, including exclusive stories and provocative views that go well beyond the propaganda fare carried by the New China News Agency or People’s Daily. Few serious publications survive for long without subsidies if they do not have popular content, editors say.

“Every serious publication in China faces tough choices,” said Mr. Li of Freezing Point. “You can publish stories people want to read and risk offending the censors. Or you can publish only stories that the party wants published and risk going out of business.”

: On NPR tonight, the anchor in the U.S. spoke with a correspondent in China as they each made searches in Google and Yahoo for Falun Gang and other forbidden subjects. Yahoo said the page had no data. Google delivered Chinese government pages as if they were all the service had. Google gets upset when anybody suggests that it might favor AOL listings here but doesn’t apparently get upset when it favors Chinese propaganda.

  • Mike G

    Why is it ironic that capitalism would bring freedom? Why is it ironic that escaping state control in the economic realm would bring escape from it in other realms?

    As soon as Comrade Chen is investing his own money, not the state’s, and having to meet his investors’ expectations, not some party boss’s five year plan, he will insist on real information, no matter what Beijing tells him he’s allowed to have. And once he can get real information, other people can too.

    There’s no irony there, only inevitability.

  • afsvfan

    what would happen to china if everyone could access google / yahoo
    just like the rest of us .

    will they all be surfing slashdot, fark , porn sites. will they want howard
    stern.

    will they overthrow the government.

    how much freedom is there in china.

  • http://writingup.com/ashok ashok

    Capitalism will definitely bring freedom, to a point – capitalism done right is basically allowing individuals to procure goods and services for themselves while providing what they wish to others. Capitalism is freedom, if it’s done well.

    It is great to see that excerpt from the letter of the Chinese elder statesman — thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Mike,
    I wasn’t clear. I meant that it’s ironic in China. Economic and market needs yield freedom. Of course, that’s the forumla. I just found it ironic, wonderfully, that without government subsidies, they have to go with market pressures and those pressures counteract censorship. And technology allows and enables that. It’s a wonderful irony there.
    j

  • JohnFromMinnesota

    Let’s not be too hard on Google. They are just living by the rules the government made them live by. At least they are in China. They could have skipped it all together. I have heard that if you misspell words in the China Google search, it will find pages based on what it thinks you meant. So, if you do a search for ‘Fulan Gang’, it works. It is my understanding that people in China are using this technique to get the information they want.

  • Angelos

    When China has feedom, give me a call.

    All talk. Just like our gubmint, actually.

  • EB

    There is a program (or service?) called TOR which people in China can use to surf anonymously…. things like that will catch on.

    But why is it OK for USA companies to make money in communist China and not Cuba? (i know, if Cuba had a billion consumers we’d change our mind about them.) Just asking.

  • Angelos

    EB, don’t forget all the politicians that make those stupid laws, who freely and openly smoke Cuban cigars.

  • Wise One

    Check the current issue of “Forbes.” The hackers will have a field day. World wide communications has opened a flood of people who love frustrating the establishment. Wait a few years. China will liberalize.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Jeff,

    Speaking of linking to propaganda…

    Your post mentions NPR and the NY Times.

    Buy a few shares of Google and your opinion of the company would perhaps lighten up. I know it worked for me.