US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has finally given her promised reactions on the subject of the recent Chinese cyber attacks on Google.
In an address, Secretary Clinton did not condemn China, but instead quite reasonably called for the Chinese government to “conduct a thorough investigation of the cyber intrusions.”
She wants “that investigation and its results to be transparent.” Hold the laughter for a moment, because this means something.
First of all, Secretary Clinton’s speech means that the US government is not about to launch some massive crusade against Chinese censorship. American leadership has taken a very smart approach.
The call for the Chinese government to launch a “transparent investigation” sends the message the the United States is affording China the benefit of the doubt. Sure, the attacks were mainly to gain access to humanitarians working in China, which leaves little doubt in my mind that the Chinese government was behind it, but this sort of foam-padded talk is good for international relations. After all, you’ll keep more friends over time if you stick to an innocent until proven guilty approach.
But even if China was behind the attacks, Secretary Clinton’s plan gives the Chinese government the opportunity to cover up. It certainly wouldn’t be below China, especially given the hot water that it’s in right now, to fabricate some sort of scapegoat. They could pin the blame on some non-governmental group and claim that they’ll crack down on hackers in the future. Or maybe the Chinese will be a bit more honest and say that it was a rogue government employee who will be properly disciplined. In any case, China has options.
Now that’s not to say that China won’t have to run scared for a while. Secretary Clinton did say that companies should not tolerate “politically-motivated censorship.” And while leaving China would upset a few shareholders, Google does have the necessary chutzpah to shut down its Chinese operations. This would lead to a PR rush for American companies to refuse to continue doing business in China until the Chinese government agrees to at the very least abate censorship; if Google goes, Microsoft and Yahoo will look pretty awful unless they also close down their search operations.