Why China has more to lose than Google

March 16, health 2010, 05:07 PM — The Associated Press pointed out the obvious today in a piece headlined “China without Google: ‘a lose-lose scenario’.”

The piece says losing permission to operate in China means Google won’t be able to take Street View pictures, and its partnerships with cell phone companies and others would suffer. There are both direct and indirect downsides to Google.

But I think the downsides are far greater for the Chinese government.

Governments have long been forced to choose between authoritarianism and wealth. Authoritarian countries were poor. Capitalist democracies were rich.

Since the 1980s, China has tried to have it both ways: Suppress and control the people like a two-bit, third rate authoritarian government in the same category as, say, Burma or Cuba, but get rich on the spoils of capitalism like, say, the UK or Japan.

China has been getting away with it. The reason is above all its enormous population. Access to Chinese markets makes foreign multinationals and governments alike go all wobbly at the knees with greed. There’s so much money to be made. Why allow little annoyances like the systematic trampling of human rights get in the way of making money?

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