Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 04:27 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 04:27 | SYDNEY

China-Google: How do we fix this?


Sam Roggeveen


19 January 2010 11:00

I've just done an interview with Sydney radio host Deborah Cameron about the China-Google dispute. I'm unhappy about my last answer.

Deborah asked me if I felt the Prime Minister ought to be speaking out more about China's increasingly assertive behaviour toward foreign companies. I replied that, although it might feel good for Rudd to give China a stern (no pun intended) talking to, it might not achieve very much. I then said there is no realistic alternative to continued engagement with China. But as for what 'engagement' might look like in response to this event...well, at that point I kind of trailed off.

What bugs me about the exchange is that, although I do hold the view that isolation or containment are not good alternatives to engagement, I really dislike it when foreign policy commentators lean too heavily on 'engagement', as if it's the answer to everything. Really, it's just the beginning of the conversation, and it requires a great deal of imaginative diplomacy to make it a reality.

And yes, I acknowledge that 'imaginative diplomacy' is another one of those uselessly vague notions that foreign policy commentators throw around. What that means in practical terms...well, at this point I kind of trail off.

Perhaps Secretary Clinton will give us some ideas when she gives a speech on internet freedom in 21 January.

One further point on this issue: FT columnist Gideon Rachman's piece on the Google affair pokes fun at America's naivety for believing that China's economic liberalisation would lead inevitably to political reform. Rachman thinks China's recent behaviour proves this theory wrong, though it seems to me difficult to argue that China today is less free overall than it was in the pre-internet age. Agree or disagree?

Photo by Flickr user robinli.public, used under a Creative Commons license.