Enabling Chinese Censorship

Someone pointed me to TopCoder recently, a programming competition website, which requires registration to view past contests (which is really all I wanted to do). As I went through their laborious registration process, something in their despicable terms and conditions caught my eye (emphasis mine):

Provisions Applicable to Chinese Citizens and Expatriates Residing in China

TopCoder hereby incorporates into these Terms of Use and Privacy Policy the provisions of China's Decision on Safeguarding the Security of the Internet (the "Decision").


According to Section 2 of the Decision, "to protect national security and social stability, the person or organization perpetrating any of the following acts in violation of the criminal law shall be penalized according to the criminal code:

1. Disseminating rumor or slander on the Internet, or publishing or diffusing maleficent information to instigate subversion of the state power or socialist system, advocate abruption of the country or harm unity of the country;
3. Instigating inter-ethnic enmity or prejudice, or disrupting ethnic unity on the Internet; and
4. Establishing or organizing heresies on the Internet and impeding the implementation of laws and regulations of the state.

Section 3 of the Decision also stipulates that "to safeguard the order of the socialist market economy and social stability, the person or organization perpetrating any of the following acts in violation of the criminal law shall be penalized according to the criminal code:


Section 4 of the Decision stipulates that "to protect the legal rights of personal safety and property of individuals, legal persons and other organizations, the person or organization perpetrating any of the following acts in violation of the criminal law shall be penalized according to the criminal code:

1. Insulting others or drawing up slanders against others on the Internet;

Wow. First off, to state the obvious, I'm glad I don't live in China. The Chinese government sucks (Waaaaaah - they're going to censor me).

Second, and more disturbing, is how this Connecticut-based company is kowtowing to Chinese oppression. They've basically stated that they're going to do the Chinese government's work in censoring anyone Chinese who criticizes their government. I know what some of you (and probably the wimps at TopCoder) are thinking: "If TopCoder doesn't play along with Chinese rules, they may get blocked in China, and the Chinese people as a whole will suffer as a result." This is completely ass-backwards thinking.

One of the reasons the USSR fell was that it became unwieldy, inflexible, and dogmatic. Its centralized structure couldn't keep up with America's relatively dynamic society, and it fell behind (and apart). China presumably took those lessons to heart, so the Chinese government came up with something very clever. Keep up contacts with American businesses, as long as they don't say anything about its repressive policies. The corporations win because they get access to a bigger market, and the Chinese government wins because they win the flexibility without giving up control. Of course, the losers are the Chinese people, who remain stuck under a repressive regime, and any other victims of Chinese policy.

If American corporations like TopCoder (and Google) had any morals (or guts) whatsoever, they would tell China that if they want to be part of the global game, they have to open up and free up. If American corporations refused to work with China as long as they remained Communist and repressive, then China would eventually be forced to evolve into a more egalitarian and open society, or risk suffering the Soviet Union's fate. But avaricious businesses saw dollar signs in their eyes, and decided that they couldn't care less what the repercussions were beyond the bottom line (a sadly common theme).

So take a good look at the TopCoder Terms and Conditions. They are committed to enforcing laws that "safeguard the order of the socialist market economy". They should be ashamed.


p.s. I'm sure I'll find dozens of other examples of this sort of crap out there. I know Yahoo has a history of collusion with the Commies. But honestly, I'm afraid to look...

p.p.s. I didn't even get around to the part about "disrupting ethnic unity". What's that all about?


yitz.. said...

playing a little devil's advocate here.. but as american businesses (the main driving force in american development as a country in this age) embrace this totalitarian model isn't it they who will fall along with the chinese govt? Isn't it actually going to bring america down with it?

also "ethnic unity" comments, might just be more lingo for racism..

Joe said...

By disturbing ethnic unity they are referring to those who see the minority peoples in China such as the Tibetans and Uighurs as deserving of their own country. Also, the nationality issue for the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong. These are extremely sensitive topics because they could disturb fragile national unity.

YodaYid said...

Yitz - you may be playing devil's advocate, but I totally agree ;-) Instead of making China rise up to meet our standards, American businesses are stooping down to meet theirs. Many business practices have been bringing America down in many different ways, and this is just another sad example.

Joe - thanks for the clarification. I guess this means that any sort of ethnic nationalism ("Tibetans rule!") is outlawed.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break, it is a fucking law in china. And if topcoder didn't obey that law they would just be blocked, which would be very bad for chinese students which some are very good in programming and would not be able to win its prizes.

Leave the "fighting totalitarian models" to activists and your government, I am sure they would love an excuse to start a war.

Or what about leaving the fight against oppresion to the chinese people?

YodaYid said...

Hello Anon:
In the long run, Chinese programmers are hurt far more by remaining stuck in a powerful, totalitarian government.

Saying that only "activists" should fight for any particular cause is silly - the whole point of activism is to get more people aware and involved. Similarly, politicians in democratic governments only get involved if it's the will of the people and it will get them relected. If people don't care about any particular cause, nothing will happen.

Letting the Chinese people themselves take care of business would make much more sense if the Chinese government was a lot weaker. If American companies stood up to China and stopped censoring themselves, China would be forced to make a decision: either cut itself off from sites like Google and TopCoder, which would set it behind and make China as a whole less competitive, or open up a little bit and become more of a democracy. Developing countries that take the former route and block off "outside influences" inevitably become more and more stagnant and outdated, and certainly less influential, and less capable of ruling its people with an iron fist. By letting China have it both ways, we are complicit in both enabling their authoritarian ways and helping them stay powerful and relevant.