Google Earth: China's War On Google

I don't approve of Wiki-Leaks, or of the NY Times, and I certainly don't like their on-going marriage of convenience, but I have to say their joint report today on China's attacks on Google (and the Internet) was ... damned interesting:
As China ratcheted up the pressure on Google to censor its Internet searches last year, the American Embassy sent a secret cable to Washington detailing one reason top Chinese leaders had become so obsessed with the Internet search company: they were Googling themselves

The May 18, 2009, cable, titled “Google China Paying Price for Resisting Censorship,” quoted a well-placed source as saying that Li Changchun, a member of China’s top ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and the country’s senior propaganda official, was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google’s main international Web site. When Mr. Li typed his name into the search engine, he found “results critical of him.”

That cable from American diplomats was one of many made public by WikiLeaks that portray China’s leadership as nearly obsessed with the threat posed by the Internet to their grip on power — and, the reverse, by the opportunities it offered them, through hacking, to obtain secrets stored in computers of its rivals, especially the United States.

Extensive hacking operations suspected of originating in China, including one leveled at Google, are a central theme in the cables. The operations began earlier and were aimed at a wider array of American government and military data than generally known, including on the computers of United States diplomats involved in climate change talks with China.

China's government says the hacking is being done by freelance "patriotic hackers" whom I have discussed/made fun of before. But, let's get real. Of course the Red Chinese government is behind this. Only diplomatic niceties prevent us from saying otherwise.

As with the other Wiki-leaks State Department docs, I don't like that Julian Asssssange has taken upon himself to put this stuff on the Web. But, the Google story, like many others, is one that really ought to have been told much more extensively than it already has. For many American elites (best represented by Thomas Friedman) China has become an object of desire and envy, as they are awe-struck by that country's rapid modernization, and secretly jealous of the central government's ability to override property rights and individual liberty in pursuit of its policies. Stories like this, even in the context of an outrageous attack on America's national security, are a necessary reality check.

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