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.