GoodB is happy to report that Google continues to be one of the best models for Good Business around. No, we are not sipping Kool-Aid! As most of you know, Google, the internet search giant, has challenged one of its biggest clients, the money machine of the 21st century Communist China, on the subject of free speech and ethics.
In all the hullabaloo this past year as the financial crisis enfolded and China stepped in to lend America piles of cash against a future of debt, little was mentioned about the communist government of China. People like brilliant policy shaper Tom Friedman waxed rhapsodic at the wonders of China with green-eyed envy. China had become the flat world's wunderkind.
I marveled at the hypnotic affects of China's "capitalism" in the past decade over respected and innovative thinkers. Friedman in "The World is Flat" listed China as a welcome addition to the global economy, a great commercial giant leveling the playing field.
In the U.S. love affair with China, as the Big O (and George Dubbya before him) shake their hands and money tree, otherwise smart people
seemed to forget who our benefactor really is. It's the Big Bad Wolf, folks and we are on our way to Grandma's house.
For all the Red Scare of the 50's through 80's, the Soviet Union was the wolf. Russia continues to be vilified in the press and Public Square. The message is repeatedly clear. They are a communist dictatorship and do not value American-style freedom. They can't be trusted. Okay, so how did China slip through the cracks to become one of the most admired economies by the western world?
The affair with Big Red began with the smell of money. Back in the mid 1990s, top execs at Goldman Sachs were scouting the world for new opportunities. The economic neutron bomb, hedge fund Long Term Capital, had exploded and with it the Russian market.
All eyes turned to the East. CEO Hank Paulson turned for help to Goldman pal, Robert Rubin, who sat comfortably in the U.S. Treasury seat. President Clinton signed on and the stars aligned. China was open for business.
The belief in the early 21st century among many of the "best" economic minds of the day (including Alan Greenspan) was that communism through capitalism would slowly transform into democracy. Ahh, we were so young and foolish back then. We believed so many fanciful things, like capitalism actually has anything to do with democracy!
In the lust for profits in the developing nation of China, American businessmen and policy makers seemed to forget - they kill people there! They round up "dissidents" (anyone who does not agree with The Party), force them into kangaroo courts, torture them behind closed doors, break their spirits, and whisk them away forever. And we think Iran's government is "bad?" I guess they are not our trading partner, so we can afford to be preachy. As soon as China became a primary source of revenue we were up the creek without a paddle.
(Just a quick note, if the financial crisis had occurred in China, what do you think would have happened to the subprime mortgage industry titans who took the money and ran? It is doubtful a Chinese Wall Street could have run too far. Guess there are perks to living with the Green-Reds after all.)
I have not understood for the past decade how the U.S. government can crow loudly about the violations of individual freedom in parts of the Middle East and somehow remain non-committal on the ongoing human cruelty in China.
Last month, outspoken Chinese dissident and well-known member of the American civil rights group PEN, Liu Xiaobo, was convicted of "inciting subversion" for calling forth "greater human rights" in China and the end of one-party rule. He was sentenced to 11 years in a maximum security prison. His wife was held in house arrest by the Chinese police during the trial. So much for democracy, even worse, forget about basic human rights.
These are the people with whom we willingly do business. These are the folks whose fortunes are made by Walmart shoppers. These are the folks who now own the future of America. Isn't business supposed to be based on trust?
Google's recent challenge to the Chinese government's hacking of private email accounts reveals the struggle between Chinese and American style commerce. When it comes to "free enterprise" in a non-free society, the limitations of capitalism are plain to see. In America, capitalism trumped democracy once again this year. In China, communism will always have the upper hand.
China and Google have butted heads over user privacy and censorship before. In my book, Spiritual Capitalism, I detailed the complex ethical issues between Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, and Chinese authorities. In 2006, all three tech companies succumbed to pressure to remove any blog or website critical of the Chinese government. Yahoo shockingly turned a political activist's email identity over to officials. He was never seen nor heard from again.