Decisions by Microsoft and Google to obey repressive Chinese censorship in order to expand into the Chinese market do not represent a “surrender” (“Giants melt beneath the Great Firewall of China”, Opinion, February 3).
But it is not clear what Google and Microsoft’s critics in this case are actually advocating. It seems unlikely that they would have been able to negotiate away the censorship. The power of Google is mighty, but the Chinese regime’s stubbornness is by all reports mightier.
Should technology companies choose not to operate in China as a symbolic stand against the regime? If this is the case, should we refuse to trade with countries whose trade is not entirely free? It is hard to imagine any winners in either scenario.
But as innovative companies make inroads into Chinese markets, citizens now have access to the latest communications technologies.
Even without the capacity to search for words like Tiananmen, access to the infinite ocean of the internet will have real and concrete effects. The desire for political and economic freedom is not contingent upon access to freedom.org. Political thought is much less obvious than that.
The situation is not ideal. But more political freedom – and Google and Microsoft’s expansions do represent that – is better than less. We must not let the best become the enemy of the good.