Why did China ban Google? And why do the West try to shut down the Confucian Institute?

The common western narrative is that China’s government is oppressive and fear that its citizens would discover freedom and democracy through those websites. On the social-economic level, they imply that China’s leadership lack confidence when dealing with the western world. The underlying message is that that those rich multi-billion corporations are somehow purveyor of freedom and democracy. Google even used “Don’t be evil” as its formal corporate motto.

However, the Snowden incident showed that the US government and many of its close allies have been spying on their users with approval from the highest management of Facebook, Twitter and Google etc. Of course, one can argue that those companies have no choice in the matter as the US and its close allies are among their biggest market. Allowing backdoor access to those government is simply following the law of those government.

Nevertheless when dealing with the government of China a different set of standard is used. The Chinese government requested the same level of access given to the US government while operating in China. A fair and not unreasonable request, isn’t it? But blinded by their own sense of self importance, those corporations refused to give Chinese government the same legal access. When the row came into the surface, hordes of western press simply trumpeted the same chorus of how the evil Chinese government want to “shut down” those websites in China. Despite that, the outcome is pretty predictable as China stopped allowing those companies direct access to its huge user base. Those websites are still accessible if one pay for a private VPN in China. The Chinese government has given signal that those corporation are welcome back if they extend the same courtesy they accorded the US government. In my opinion, it would happen one day but China’s internet is now dominated by its own homegrown multi-billion corporations so it is no longer so lucrative for them to go back.

It would be interesting to compare those incidents to the banning of the Confucian Institute in the west. The pretext used is that the Confucian Institute is the propaganda organ of the Chinese Communist Party as it is funded by the Chinese government. The Britain’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe-Institut were also funded by their respective government and championed the opinion of their respective governments. Why weren’t those institute banned? The biggest difference between the Confucian Institute and its counterpart is that the Chinese government prefer to cooperate with local institute of education.  Unlike its counterparts which operate freely in any location, usually by leasing its own building and giving language and cultural classes, the Confucian Institute prefer to work with an education institute of the host country. In my view, the Chinese government is simply to try to show good will by having semi-official validation, and by working right under the noses of the local institutes, its classes and activities are an open book. However according to the detractors, “this has raised concerns over their influence on academic freedom, the possibility of industrial espionage, and concerns that the institutes present a selective and politicized view of China as a means of advancing the country’s soft power internationally.”

So basically the alleged crimes of the Confucian Institute have no legal basis and simply subject to narrow-minded interpretation by bigots. Much like how it is done in the Cultural revolution. However, the ball is still in the host countries’ courts as the teachers of the Confucian Institute still need legal permits before they can teach. Of course, it is the right of the host country to issue those permits to whoever it deemed acceptable. Nonetheless, when it is done selectively it raised the notion of selective prosecution and total lack of confidence.

Let’s be realistic, the so-called soft power is simply an extension of a country hard power. And like any competition it is prudent to occupy the high ground, in this case the moral high ground. However, moralizing an issue when one stands on clay feet is not very convincing, at least to the critical observers.

 

18 thoughts on “Why did China ban Google? And why do the West try to shut down the Confucian Institute?

  1. Great Analysis! China is now just too weak and less effective on the propaganda side of things compared with the West, don’t know how long it will take to improve in this regard.

  2. To say “China’s leadership lacks confidence in dealing with the western world”, sounds like reversed psychology. China has dealt with the brutality and the viciousness of the western governments even before the infamous Opium War. It has always been the “civilized brutes” from the west who lacks confidence in dealing with China. China’s only crime is that it doesn’t fit the “enlightened barbarians” of western world so called standards.

  3. Technically, Google was not “banned” from China.

    A “ban” would be if Google is prohibited by law to operate in China, period.

    It’s not a “ban” if Google doesn’t want to follow the laws of China, and chose to leave China to avoid legal liability.

    Afterall, Google could choose to defy Chinese laws, to continue to operate in China, and face fines. It could do so, but it didn’t.

    To call it a “ban”, would be like if one is a terrible driver, and one refuses to drive in fear of getting traffic tickets, and then one calls oneself as being “banned” from driving.

    That would be ridiculous. No. You are only “banned” if the court/government says, “Sir, you are not allowed to drive.”

    Google was allowed to operate in PRC, it chose not to incur legal liability (and other risks like possible government investigations).

    While that’s understandable business choice, it’s not a “ban”.

    And PRC had previously said, that Google could at any time reapply for business license in China and set up its operations.

    “Blocking access” to Google is a different thing completely. GFW actually blocks access to a lot of things in general. Blocking user access is not the same as “banning” a company from operating. 1 is on the receiving end, the other is on the source end.

    Export Ban, Technology Ban, etc., all refer to the SOURCE, not the receiving end.

    *Additionally, Google is also not “illegal” in China.

    There is no law that says Google cannot operate in China. There are laws that Google must obey, or face fines if Google does not follow in its operation in China.

    Also, even as many have used Google by VPN and other means in China, it’s not a crime to do so. No user in China has been punished for “accessing Google”.

  4. @Black Pheonix
    Well, technically Google etc are not banned in the PRC. However, as I have explained in my writings “China stopped allowing those companies direct access”.

    I like your analogy of driving though, I will elaborate it further. Basically, China’s government simply told Google, Facebook, Twitter etc that their cars cannot be driven on China’s road. If you want to drive those cars, follow our law or built your own roads.

  5. Sorry for being off topic here, may I bring your attention to the following article::

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/unb-defends-prof-s-academic-freedom-in-wake-of-racism-complaint-1.2892206

    Please read the article and the comments section and you would find out that there is a second coming of ethnic cleansing of the Chinese in Canada. There is an alarm bell here. And I witness this anti-Chinese racism at work and elsewhere.

    History is repeating itself.

    Notice that no white politician would jump to the defence of Chinese people. And just yesterday, the Canadian foreign affairs was talking about providing $9 million to the University of Toronto for promoting democracy and human rights in Iran. Yet nobody is defending the human rights of the Chinese in Canada.

    Please let me know what you think.

  6. @United Chinese Diaspora

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30538929

    Racism is getting worst in UK and France and Germany too.

    I can’t believe this kind of BS is still going on in “enlightened Democracy” in this day and age.

    *Funny part about this is, a lot of these “British Chinese” are from HK, and many of them are so eager to prove that they are more “British” than Chinese (to the extent they even insult mainlanders with racist slurs).

    But they still get insulted and assaulted in England.

    Karma.

  7. @Black Pheonix

    I think the Hong Kong protesters should have a closer look at what Western democracy is really like.

    There is a history of discrimination against Chinese people in Canada and democracy and freedom of expression are promoted only when used against China but when Chinese people in Canada are demanding for freedom of expression, the Chinese point of view is either shuttered or ridiculed.

    I recently learned that the NGO that represents Chinese voice in Canada has been shut down.

    Please visit http://www.ccnc.ca and have a look

  8. @Black Pheonix

    Canada is more British than the US, so you can see a lot of the racism that is copy cat of the British colonial attitude in Canada but less so in the US.

    The US value “equality” more openly than Canada in the sense that in the US, you would see challenges from both Asians and non-Asians against the type of racist remarks from this professor from the UNB.

    For example, that girl Alexandra Wallace who made rather “innocent” ( in my opinion) remarks about Asians at UCLA and there was an uproar in which she was forced to quit school. Interestingly, I sympathize with her because I don’t think she made the remarks out of spite or hate but rather an honest observation. I don’t see maliciousness there.

    By contrast, the comments made by the professor at the University of New Brunswick was vitriolic and meant to promote hate. And you would see a lot of support from the Anglos because they side with Britain and they have this underlying jealous feeling about Hong Kong returning to China. This colonial imperial tendency is very much alive in a lot of the white Anglos that I meet in work and outside.

    In the work place, you are expected to be subservient to all white people or courted minorities. So if there is an East Indian or a Filipino, they would be preferred and they would have much more say than you do because there is a subversive support for people from countries that are courted to go against China.

    So all Chinese are being discriminated and the Chinese voice is being suppressed, so much for democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.

    In the UK article, it mentioned about the Chinese culture of being obedient to “tough love” and that explains why Chinese people are reticent even when being picked on unfairly.

    I think this is about to change because Chinese people are pushed against the wall and when they fight back it will be significant in that this is the part that white people don’t understand about Chinese people, the Chinese resolve is absolute.

    White people think that Chinese people are weak because they are usually quiet and non-confrontational. And they keep on poking thinking they will just poke the Chinese into submission.

    They don’t know anything about Chinese culture and Chinese mentality.

    The Chinese survived in 5,000 years of the worst living conditions in humanity and time and again they revived back to excellence. No other country in the world is able to claim such bragging rights.

    I think that this smugness made Chinese people tend to dismiss the importance of unity. But this will change once they find themselves against the wall.

    The massive Western media brainwashing promoting hatred against the Chinese will actually help create a critical mass in which all Chinese people will rise up against the travesty forced on them.

    You would notice that the CBC article was promptly archived only after one day in the news. There is obviously a torrent of hateful comments represented by the general Canadian public against the Chinese that the CBC doesn’t want to expose such racism and therefore a quick cover up. If racism against the Chinese in Canada comes to the fore and exposes to the world, the Canadian government must take action, no politician would want to be seen as Chinese sympathizers. The only brave politician who dares to say something good about China was Justin Trudeau and he was much chastised for it.

    I would advise the Hong Kong protesters to look at the Canadian model of democracy, human rights and freedom of expression. If China were to apply the same model on them, China would be condemned by the West as trampling on democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.

    What the Hong Kong protesters don’t realize is that they are pawns, they are propped up to go against China, the bottom line is that they are still slaves. Albeit some of them would be gilded slaves.

    Chinese people will be united from being forced into slavery again.

  9. @Ray

    Sorry for hijacking your post.

    Perhaps what I can add to your comment is that what China lacks in the great psychological mind control game is the massive tentacles of the NSA in which the news media and social networks are complicit in this massive brainwashing exercise.

    So Youtube pays people to tell their life’s stories in the way of Draw Your Life or as simple as their travels or daily routines, and Twitter mines opinions of young people, so if I know the likes and dislikes and fears and prejudices of these people, I can easily manipulate their mind through psychological techniques such as repeating the same lie over and over again.

    China does not have such expertise and set up to even defend its position never mind about spreading misinformation.

  10. @United Chinese Diaspora
    Relax; Chinese trade is vital, money talks. Why don’t International students, many Chinese, simply boycott UNB. Let see how far Freedom of Speech will go. , “you don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”, soon enough the good Prof. will be offered early retirement.
    In the CBC article comparing with new migrants in Scandinavian countries is rather funny; the Canadian Chinese pay taxes while the Muslim refugees in Sweden / Norway getting social security. Because of so called Human Right, Liberty…blah..blah. They have now to accept those from Middle East.
    The Professor is complaining about Chinese, I said: “count your blessing that you’re not yet facing the Muslim like in Europe”.
    On second thought isn’t the successful of western NGO caused many HK people migrating to Canada, to escape the oppressive China? Now you have them. Enjoy.

  11. @danielxu

    I guess the old saying “becareful what you wish for” rings true in what you said.

    What I find hypocritical is that radical Islam is the result of the West, and now Bin Ladin, Charlie Hebdo, etc are blamed on the Muslims.

  12. @United Chinese Diaspora
    All well thought out written comments are welcomed. The double standard of the West is always present. Anybody remember when a Chinese commentator lament the present of foreigners committing illegal activities in China. Nobody in the west talked about “freedom of speech” then, there is almost a unison voice calling for his firing by the western press.

  13. @Ray

    I don’t know much about the Confucius Institute other than what’s written in blogs and news.

    There is one at the Langara College in Burnaby but I don’t think it is very active.

    An Italian friend of mine was doing some research in Chinese culture and I referred him to the CI in Langara and he said they never called him back.

    I think that if China is able to build a cohesive society that the Chinese people is envied by the world because of good standard of living and good government then this would be the ultimate soft power.

    And Chinese people must do that themselves because nobody will do it for them.

  14. @United Chinese Diaspora
    The Confucian Institute pretty much operate like its counterparts (British Council, Alliance Française and Goethe-Institut). It is not the sinister propaganda monster portrayed. Its influence is probably even more limited because it operates on campus only.

    Yes, the only reason the Western powers can dictate to the world is that they have the organization, wealth, technology etc. China is still behind in those regards. China will only be able to make a convincing argument with its core belief when it finally have the upper hands in those attributes.

    The big irony is the schism of the western press. If China’s current system is inferior and doomed to decline why the sino-phobia. However, if China’s system does have its merits then why don’t more construction engagement be made?

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