In a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry (Translated with Google Translator), China warned that Clinton’s stance could lead to chilly relations between the two nations. The Ministry was quoted as saying, ” The U.S. has criticized China’s policies to administer the Internet and insinuated that China restricts Internet freedom…This runs contrary to the facts and is harmful to Sino-U.S. relations.”
Clinton’s speech praised Google’s decision to uncensor their search engine, and called for action by other corporations, saying “Censorship should not be accepted by any company from anywhere. American companies need to make a principled stand.”
The remarks the Chinese Government found objectionable were made in the next section of the speech. Clinton said, “The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyberspace. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate in the name of progress.”
While not explicitly mentioning China, given the context of the speech, it was not difficult to read between the lines.
China’s counterargument to Secretary of State Clinton’s remarks attempts to dispute her claims by citing completely unrelated statistics. The Foreign Ministry’s announcement stated that, “China’s Internet is open. China is also the most active state developer of the Internet. At the end of last year, China’s netizens reached 384 million, China’s websites reached 3.68 million, and 180 million blogs. Chinese citizens’ freedom of speech protected is by the Constitution. To promote the development of the Internet is our consistent policy.”
While it is true that China has more “netizens” than any other country (because they are the biggest country), it doesn’t change the fact that if you search terms like “Falun Gong,” “Free Tibet,” or “Tiananmen Square June 5th,” on Google in Beijing, you’ll probably end up having an involuntary meeting with State Security. It also doesn’t change the fact that internet access has essentially been shut off in the tumultuous far-Western region of Xinjang since July of last year.
It’s hardly surprising that China’s Foreign Ministry reacted the way that it did. They’re supposed to be the reactionaries. It will be interesting to see what happens next, though. The Google.cn incident has caught the world’s attention. How will China behave when they know everyone is watching?