Opium Wars and the perfidy of Google

This has so far been a star-studded century for social media on the field of international politics. We watched a “Twitter revolution” take hold in Moldova in 2009, and “Facebook politics” unfold in Iran and elsewhere. These cyber-fueled convulsions have seemed to culminate this year with a “Facebook revolution” in Tunisia and social media influenced revolutions in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

For many observers, revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are already archetypes pointing to the political magic that happens when people are networked and empowered by information technology. But for many Party hardliners in China, these convulsions tell a different story. That story is less about the “political power of social media” than about the national interests that power serves — those of the United States, of course.

And the story is also hackle-raisingly familiar, opening up a wellspring of galvanizing national shame. Western powers are once again seeking world domination through unrestricted monopoly trade in dangerous products. But this time it isn’t opium — it’s information.

As “web user” Zheng Yan (郑岩) wrote in an article posted Friday on People’s Daily Online, a website operated by the CCP’s official People’s Daily, “[Google] is not just a search engine tool — it is a tool to extend American hegemony.” The Mountain View, CA, based company is, says Zheng, “America’s British East India Company.”

The article was cross-posted on more than 300 websites in China, including Xinhua Online, QQ.com, China Youth Daily Online and Sina.com.

And since this is a story about good guys and bad guys, you should know that Chinese search engine provider Baidu is a national hero that “strongly blocked” Google in China.

Read on with joy.

From the East India Company to Google
People’s Daily
March 4, 2011
By Zheng Yan (郑岩)

As an American company, Google’s enthusiasm for the politics of other nations goes beyond what is right.

Recently, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other American Internet giants have participated directly in the social storm that has engulfed the Middle East. They have played a key role in manufacturing social disorder, serving a role entirely inappropriate to their status. Wael Ghonim, Google’s chief representative in the Middle Eastern and North African markets even rendered assistance to Mohamed ElBaradei in driving forward the anti-government movement [in Egypt], becoming the chief agent behind Egyptian demonstrations. The facts have shown that Google is not purely a company, that it seeks not only to make the money of other nations, but also meddles in the political affairs of other countries. It is not just a search engine tool — it is a tool to extend American hegemony.

In the Internet age, whoever dominates the Internet dominates the world. As the world’s leading hegemonic power, America has always prioritized the Internet and sought to use the Internet as a means of promoting America’s national interests around the world. Google has been very cooperative with this strategic motive of the United States government, and [its cooperation] has been active.

The enterprise with the world’s highest online traffic, Google monopolizes the online search engine markets for the vast majority of nations and regions in the world, and it has the capacity to dominate online information, widely propagate lies and influence [the information] climate. When a number of countries in the Middle East experienced signs of instability due to inflation and other problems, Google immediately went on the offensive, even allowing a senior company manager to directly establish the online general headquarters of the anti-government movement, fostering successive protest movements and nakedly interfering with the internal politics of other nations. These actions of Google’s are astonishing, and they lead people naturally to recall the British East India Company.

In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the British East India Company, through the monopolization of trade, the sale of opium and open plunder, accomplished great works for England in its development of an “empire on which the sun never sets.” Marx once said concerning the British East India Company that there was a 200-year history of the British government carrying out wars in the name of this company, until this reached the natural boundaries of India.

In the colonial era, the British East India Company used the monopolization of trade in the colonies to traffic opium and assist Britain in building its hegemony. In the Internet era, Google uses its monopoly of Internet information search to traffic American values and assist American in building its hegemony.

While there are differences in the ways the two [companies] served hegemony, they are uncannily alike in the way they rely upon hegemonic governments to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations and attain monopoly positions globally. It can be said that today’s Google is America’s British East India Company.

At its heart, Google is quite similar to the British East India Company. But in managing its outward appearance it is far more skillful than the British East India Company ever was. Google does not burn, kill and pillage, but rather is a master of disguises. Against the modus operandi of the British East India Company, which was to “carry out trade when necessary and plunder when possible,” Google’s slogan is far more bewitching: “Do no evil.” The problem is that no company on earth “does evil” as a matter of creed, and it is a bit hypocritical for Google to say it “does no evil.” The facts show that this “Do no evil” is actually an admission of guilt through a protestation of innocence.

This company that claims to “do no evil” has cooperated with America’s National Security Agency to monitor the private information of American citizens. It has been taken to court by publishing companies in France, Germany, Belgium and many countries for violations of copyright. It has been compelled by China and other countries to clean up its act because it disseminates pornographic content. And most recently it has also openly released subversive information, fomenting unrest in other countries. Before the facts, Google’s creed of “Do no evil” is like a joke. Is it any wonder that Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said that Google’s “Do no evil” creed was complete nonsense?

A company that hold a monopoly position in its industry is of course formidable, but Google is not without its enemies under heaven. In China, it was strongly blocked by Baidu. According to statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center, Baidu held 75.5 percent of China’s domestic search engine market in the fourth quarter of 2010, and Google’s share of the market, which had fallen for four consecutive quarters, stood at just 19.6 percent . . . Losing its competitive advantage, this Google which had swept across the entire world market, was furious with shame and started playing the political card.

[This portion includes a summary of Google's pullout from China, and how China remained determined to "govern the Internet in accordance with the law" despite Google's arrogant exceptionalism.] But this momentary setback could not deter a company like this from its ways. Seizing on social unrest in the Middle East, it once again raised its ugly head and again it sought to play the political card against China. China has no illusions about such a company. It disregards basic truth and international law to wantonly interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. China has the right to monitor and control it in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations.

During the Opium Wars more than a century ago, the British East India Company forced open the doors of China with its own gunships, sending China into a century of chaos and leaving Chinese with a bitter history of humiliation. Today, China will not stand by and let a new British East India Company repeat the events of history.

FRONTPAGE IMAGE: Statue at Opium War Museum in Humen Dongguan, available from dcmaster at Flickr.com under Creative Commons license.

14 Comments to “Opium Wars and the perfidy of Google”

  1. admin says:

    Balzar:

    You’re not reading the piece properly, probably a native/non-native issue. The “As …” follows logically from the previous paragraphs, most importantly: “But for many Party hardliners in China . . . ” I am paraphrasing the arguments of the CCP, not endorsing them.

    The opinions expressed in the editorial are certainly not “news,” but we are contextualizing and explaining them in the context of China’s ideological conflict with Google and “the West” — which makes them “news and analysis” for readers of CMP.

    Thank you for your question — a good one easily solved by more careful reading.

    Best,
    David

  2. Balzar Aikin says:

    How is this published under news and analysis when it is clearly op-ed. As a case in point, I cite this comment:
    “As “web user” Zheng Yan (郑岩) wrote in an article posted Friday on People’s Daily Online, a website operated by the CCP’s official People’s Daily, “[Google] is not just a search engine tool — it is a tool to extend American hegemony.” The Mountain View, CA, based company is, says Zheng, “America’s British East India Company.”
    This is not reportage nor analysis. This is citing an opinion as fact. Propoganda in China? Perish the thought.

  3. Common Tater says:

    Hyuk! Hyuk! This is hilarious. I mean, basically it’s like an Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rant against the US and Israel. Ridiculously exaggerated! However, it does show the deep paranoia still evident in Chinese culture, no doubt to some extent fomented by the CCP.

    On the other hand, maybe the author would argue that I was the brainwashed one. OK, then: where’s the proof of his case? Where are the facts about Google, that he would use to argue his claims?

  4. Thanks for highlighting an important article in the Chinese media to appreciate and providing a translation for all to read.

    I’ve posted my thoughts here: http://www.isidorsfugue.com/2011/03/google-accused-in-china-of-meddling-in.html and will add more later. In addition to what I wrote there, I thought your comment on “national shame” was key. Looking forward to similar posts in the future!

  5. theChinaRave says:

    @Dan S…. You’re an American who is sympathetic to Chinese nationalism? I guess you have never lived in China… Sure, one could sympathize with Chinese nationalism on an intellectual level, but living in China taught me that their society is paranoid and insane.

  6. Moggz says:

    Eric Schmidt works for the US gov as a member of PCAST: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_President's_Council_of_Advisors_on_Science_and_Technology

    This is the man who claims to have the data to be able to identify a person from 14 online photos, predict where someone is travelling to, and to know who you are, where you’ve been and “more or less” what you’re thinking about.

  7. Kaiheitai says:

    Baidu = Sanlu for your mind! Viva Google!

  8. Oh man this is awesome. You couldn’t make this stuff up. There was a Philip K. Dick short story once where the protagonist was given the task of differentiating a parodical political essay from a ‘real’ political essay. Failure to identify the correct one would indicate ideological untrustworthiness. He had the two pieces of paper in his hand, read them, and puzzled it out. I think if the above translation were included in such a test, it would be very hard to tell…

  9. Erwin says:

    some qoutes from Chinese website.
    -Like the way they said, so now China back to Qing dynasty?
    && -Looks like its more dreadful than opium that information knowing by people…

  10. Dan S says:

    Ok, I am an American, but I’m generally sympathetic with Chinese nationalism. But this analysis is quite a reach. Google can be arrogant at times, but google at this point seems to be a pretty insignificant presence in China at this point.

    Google’s role in the Middle East uprisings is overstated. In the US, most people credit Twitter and Facebook more, but they all are pretty circumspect about taking any credit. By all indications, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were genuine popular uprisings against long-entrenched dictators with little popular support. In the case of Egypt, at least, Mubarak has long been considered a loyal ally of the US, and US policy in the middle east has always emphasized stability over democracy. Google got some publicity over Egypt because of the role of Wael Ghonim, but there is no indication that Ghonim was acting on Google’s behalf. He was officially on leave at the time. Google publicized his disappearance, but there is no indication he was acting on Google’s behalf.

    Google does influence the way people use the internet, world-wide. But there has never been any evidence of systematic management of their search results for any purpose other than trying to get the most relevant results. The Page Rank algorithm is not publicly known, but every indication is that it is totally automatic and there is no human intervention. It’s hard to see how there could be, on any significant scale, given the volume of information on the internet. Google has 24000 employees, but only a smalll fraction of those work on search directly. The big problem with google of late has been SEO gaming of search results and related content farm and link sales issues. These are commercial and technical problems, not political at all.

    I understand the Chinese desire for stability, give the last hundred years of history there. I also understand that many if not most Chinese are proud of China’s accomplishments in the last 30 years, with good reason. It’s an amazing story, and I know there is a lot of dedication and hard work involved at many levels. But the Chinese political process is fairly opaque to outsiders, and somewhat alien to western democratic ideals. And by every indication the Chinese government has much more control over what Chinese see on the internet than Google does. I just can’t see how Google is any threat to China, at any level.

  11. Tim Pearson says:

    Being firmly an Anglo Saxon living in Norway, I understand this sentiment of distrust. It is also absolutely legitimate to distrust what is happening. Whether there is measurable assistance to social unrest or not, the fact is that the US is the worlds database of information.

    The US has become the internet and everything (98%) is stored there or goes through there. Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon. Those companies “are” the internet. All else being net dandruff. (I am excluding China from this).

    US Hegemony is something I don’t have a huge problem with when I compare the alternatives. However, the US soft data control over the internet has gone way too far. (Although I don’t believe it had any material effect in North Africa – my concern is for the future).

  12. Bill says:

    This is a great find. So it doesn’t occur to anyone in China that it’s own leaders are determined to be the ones running the “East India Company” in China? And rather than allow millions to rot in a stupor in opium dens, they are instead determined to work them into a stupor in enormous factories, keeping the profits for themselves?

    For the life of me, I can’t understand why western companies allow themselves to be tricked into doing business in China. Don’t they know that the Chinese will take all of their intellectual property, allow the company to train workers and establish the profitable business model, and then use some sort of pretext to throw the “foreign devils” out? Keeping the business and the profits, of course.

    Not that it isn’t clever, mind you. Big corporations are now like countries run by one brutal dictator who keeps the lion’s share of the profits – the CEO. The reason the US government likes dictators is that you only need to keep one person happy to have an entire country doing what you want. China now keeps the CEO happy, and the corporation full of slaves follows right along, packing up the factories and moving them to China, along with all the jobs.

    Business is war, indeed.

  13. nommh says:

    It is true there are grave doubts whether a company as big as Google can live up to its ludicrous ‘do no evil’-standard. However, comparing it to the British East India Company is a surefire way to sow paranoia and discord in the world.

    The East India Company operated under a double standard. Human rights were only for so-called white people (we are not white, of course. As James Joyce said, we are pinko-grey), while everyone else was thought to be less valuable. This has changed! Beginning with the abolition of slavery, more and more people were horrified by this double standard. Now there is a broad consensus, that every human being must have the same human rights. Countless constitutions the world over make it the law of the land that there must be no discrimination against race, gender or creed.

    Moreover, the East India Company and the British state of the time were closely interwoven. The British government did not think twice to send the army to do the dirty business of the East India Company. Does this article argue, that now the roles are reversed and a company like Google is now doing the dirty business of the American government by spreading information?

    There were many discussions in the west that twitter and facebook started the uprising against north african dictators. But others said, this was nonsense and that these social media were just tools of communication, no more than paper, printing presses, and phones etc. This is an old discussion. Some say the medium is the message, some say the message is the message. I say that the internet gives people all over the world the opportunity to be friends with citizens of other nations and to think new thoughts.

    Google does not produce the news, it makes it accessible. Neither Twitter nor Facebook force individual users to comment this news. And the people in north Africa were sick of being killed, tortured and put in prison by their dictators.

  14. Jay Chu says:

    Google’s most important battle is in the Mobile App Internet now and they are losing. They are losing to a new breed of public companies such as MOBI, MIMV, VELT, TBWO for example:

    Mimvi is Like Google For Smartphone Apps and Games
    http://www.guidingtech.com/mobiles/mimvi-mobile-phone-apps-search/

    Hello, App Internet. Goodbye, Web
    http://blogs.forbes.com/ericsavitz/2011/02/18/forresters-george-colony-hello-app-internet-goodbye-web/

    Mobile App Internet: Making Sense Of The 2011 Mobile Hysteria
    http://blogs.forrester.com/john_mccarthy/11-02-28-mobile_app_internet_making_sense_of_the_2011_mobile_hysteria

    CNBC: mobile apps are driving the sales of smartphones
    http://finance.yahoo.com/video/cnbc-22844419/smartphone-smackdown-24039968

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