TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Tess Vigeland: Today in China the official state media outlet trained its sights on the Obama administration’s announcement of a multi-billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan. The China Daily said the move “inevitably cast a long shadow on Sino-U.S. relations.” The latest back-and-forth over those relations comes on the heels of angry words over Internet censorship, and Google’s threat to pull out of the Middle Kingdom.
Commentator Todd Buchholz says China faces a stark choice when it comes to Internet freedom.
TODD BUCHHOLZ: Mom and dad used to say “finish everything on your plate; the kids in China are starving.” Now those kids are eating our lunch. Why? China doesn’t brim with oil, or gold, or any of the other precious commodities traded in the Chicago pits. But China has technological power.
The secret to China’s success came when Deng Xiaoping unleashed the economy back in 1979. Overnight he went straight from praising Chairman Mao to inviting Mickey Mouse to set up camp. In his famous pronouncement on economics Deng said, “white cat, black cat, makes no difference. As long as it catches mice.”
But now China’s cat-and-mouse game is getting dangerous. China is artificially holding down its currency, holding back imports, and now holding up the Internet by calmly accepting the Chinese cyber-hacking of Google.
Hacking is a growth industry. According to Reuters, for $150 Chinese computer whizzes download all the tools and even the tutorial sessions needed to create havoc. China, which will harass a Falun Gong member who does yoga on the banks of the waterfront in Shanghai, can’t be bothered to go after destructive hackers.
By stifling Google and either permitting or encouraging attacks on the Internet, China is setting itself up for a choice. Communist leaders in Beijing will have to choose whether they support free trade, and a free flow of information, or whether they want to retreat to a simpler, less prosperous life. Beijing will have to choose between China “dot-com” or China “dot-communism.”
China has certainly generated great growth in assembly-line manufacturing, but guess what — there aren’t enough of those jobs to keep a billion people employed. China will have to move into services, too, and that requires honest ideas, not piracy and spying.
It’s time for Beijing to stop rooting for the hackers and pull out their plugs.
VIGELAND: Economist Todd Buchholz was an adviser to the first President Bush. His latest book is called “New Ideas From Dead CEOs.”
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