Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Convoluted logic from Baidu's chief product designer, Sun Yunfeng

Got this from Evan Osnos's New Yorker blog today:

The tone of Google’s chief legal consultant disgusts me. If you withdraw for economic reasons, say it outright. Putting on make-up and saying that Google was attacked by the Chinese and that the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents were attacked, in order to pave the way for its withdraw from China, is a humiliation to Chinese people’s intelligence, though it might really suit Westerners’ fantasies—those who are arrogant, have never been to China, don’t know China but love talk about China.


Common sense: Unequal access to information is one of the major causes of social inequality. The most important information to people is not secret from within Zhongnanhai [the Chinese leadership compound] but common information about economics, culture, and technology. Providing convenience to people to access that information, to make up for the inequity in information, is one of the ways that a search engine can be of social and political significance.

From this perspective, trying to provide convenient access to information for people and give them real value is a responsible approach. It’s not about making a great spectacle of claiming to “do no evil” and then dying a heroic glorious death by turning against the government. It is fine to find a way to exit, but not by playing on the emotions of a population that is under such tight control. That is immoral.

The tone of Sun's editorial, masterfully preserved by Osnos's translation, is outrageously puerile and dumb. According to him, Google's potential departure from China would hurt Chinese citizens because the people would not have "convenience... to access information... to make up for the inequity in information." That inequity of information, by the way, being "one of the major causes of social inequality." And Google is "immoral" because it's doing no favors for "a population that is under such tight control" (the implication being every company, to say nothing of every living thing on the face of this earth not excluding dying petunias and the wildebeest of the Serengeti, should be doing favors for the controllers of said population, i.e. CPC).

I won't bother asking, "Flagrant irony or subtle subversiveness?" this time because the answer seems evident.

I'm assuming Sun is intelligent. If he penned the above in good faith -- that is, if he wasn't smirking the entire time -- he should immediately take his throne as the paragon of systemic ignorance that Chinese censorship has engendered. If you ever need an example of the damage the Chinese government has inflicted on its own people with its outdated and harebrained restrictions on the free flow of information, please, by all means, look long and hard upon Sun Yunfeng.

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