A lot has already been written in the Western media about the yesterday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speech on Internet ‘freedom.’ In her speech, Clinton singled out China for being “repressive” on the Internet, and for that reason, the predictable narrative is out yet again: U.S. vs. ‘bad’ China, ‘bad’ China, or U.S. being too harsh to, still, a ‘bad’ China. This nonsense aside, I thought the speech was telling of a number of things.
First of all, don’t forget that the U.S. Department of State’s mission is to conduct U.S. foreign policies. In that sense, everything Clinton said were expected and predictable. The biggest give away is near the end of her speech where she said:
The dramatic increase in internet users during the past 10 years has been remarkable to witness. But that was just the opening act. In the next 20 years, nearly 5 billion people will join the network. It is those users who will decide the future.
Indeed, the opinions of those 5 billion people matter as the U.S. tries to shape the world the way she wants. The U.S. wants to have unfettered access to these people over the Internet in similar fashion as the Voice of America (VOA) program. Remember that the VOA is U.S. propaganda. Countries able to jam VOA signals stand a better chance of their citizens siding for their own interests.
It also makes business sense, because American capital has allowed the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter to have a huge head-start. The American mentality is why should citizens around the world use anything else when the biggest and the best is available? Better yet, those corporations should only be subject to American law and no one else’s. 😉
I can imagine Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi calling Clinton after her speech congratulating her on how clever she hid behind the ideologies of ‘freedom,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘human rights.’ Let’s be real; diplomats around the world can cut through this kind of talks like a sharp knife through butter. Secretary Clinton can make this kind of speech without public scorn on the international stage because the U.S. is super rich and super powerful.
The U.S. has ZERO fear against anybody else on this planet able to take down the U.S. government. The fear of foreign entities brainwashing Americans is also non-existent. (Actually, in China’s case, there’s tremendous fear in the American public and media. The U.S. ruling elites fear not, because they know sinophobia is prevalent; messages from China will automatically be shut down.)
And what Clinton described in her speech is indeed what the U.S. is already doing. Here, the WSJ writes:
A day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to promote Internet freedom, efforts by U.S. diplomats to generate debate on the issue on Twitter-like microblogs in China—which has the world’s most Internet users—ran up against the country’s sophisticated censorship system.
The U.S. will actively evangelize ‘freedom,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘human rights,’ because for those without a nuanced understanding of these ideals, they may develop faith in the fundamentalist views in them like they do a religion. This case of “generate debate” is peddling this religion. Those around the globe subscribe to this religion above all else will be willing listeners and at times become innocent participants of U.S. foreign policy. American citizens are capable of joining Al Qaeda, so don’t tell me that is not possible.
Clinton is calling on U.S. civil society to join hands with her too. U.S. NGO’s and civil society becomes an extension of U.S. foreign policy. Welcome to the 21st century.
BUT, second of all, this shows how weak the tenet of U.S. foreign policy actually is. As we have written countless of articles thus far on this blog about the Chinese perspective on these ideals, the Chinese views are much more nuanced. (See featured posts on the right-side navigation portion of this blog.) After the failed 1989 Tiananmen protest and the success in China’s reforms in the last few decades, the Chinese have found confidence and a formula to move forward. Coupled with the fact that the U.S. is plagued by government dysfunction, stigma of immoral invasions, and financial crisis, there is not much credibility left in lectures from the U.S. or her media.
The U.S. being the only country on this planet having to veto the by far the most number of resolutions in the U.N., and by far stand the most alone in defeats on ‘human rights’ related resolutions, must resort to ideological pretexts to advance her foreign policy.
I therefore urge everyone in China to view Clinton’s speech calmly. Sure, the U.S. wants to mold China into a shape that best serves U.S. interests. China would like to influence the U.S. too.
Above all else, the U.S. wants a peaceful world (though dominated by her). China wants a peaceful world too. At that strategic level, the two countries are well aligned.
For now, China appears effective in blocking foreign propaganda.