US business leaders complain about China's Web control

The Chinese government is using censorship as a tool against US companies trying to do business there, critics say

The Chinese government is using Internet censorship as a trade weapon against U.S. tech companies trying to do business there, leaders of two business organizations have told a U.S. government commission focused on human rights in China.

China's ongoing censorship of the Internet is applied unevenly, with foreign companies often facing stricter rules than their Chinese counterparts, Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, told the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China during a Thursday hearing.

While the Chinese government blocks U.S. services such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, similar Chinese services are growing in China with little censorship, Black said. Some Web content blocked from appearing on U.S.-based sites in China appears on Chinese sites, he said. In some cases, China has redirected searches through U.S. services to a Chinese service, and its censorship of foreign services drives consumers to Chinese alternatives, he added.

"This double standard strongly suggests that the motivation here is protectionism rather than morals," Black told the commission.

A representative of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn't respond to a request for comments on the hearing. A Chinese spokeswoman in October said the government there protects freedom of expression online.

Two witnesses at the hearing, as well as Representative Chris Smith, the commission chairman and a New Jersey Republican, also raised concerns about news reports that Cisco Systems is working with Chinese police on an Internet surveillance system, called Golden Shield.

"Cisco is responsible for the deterioration of Internet freedom in China," said John Zhang, a political dissident who was imprisoned for two years following the 1989 Tiananmen protests.

Cisco representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comments.

Black and Gil Kaplan, president of the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws, called on the U.S. government to file trade complaints against China. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative's October request for information on Chinese Web blocking is a good first step, but the U.S. government is taking a "small percentage" of the actions it could take to help U.S. businesses compete in China.

Black called China's censorship of the Internet a "deplorable practice that perverts what should be the greatest tool for communication and freedom into a tool for an authoritarian regime's control of information and of its citizens."

The CCIA sees a "greater assertiveness, boldness, unashamedness" of the Chinese government toward enforcing censorship, Black said. The government there is trying to export its model of Internet control so it's not seen as an "outlier" on the world stage, he said.

Black urged commission members to consider the economic impact of censorship as well as human rights.

"While from a human rights perspective, it may seem akin to going after Al Capone for tax evasion, addressing Chinese censorship as a trade barrier is a legitimate, multilateral and potentially effective approach that needs to be pursued by our government at the highest levels," he said. "As the nation that invented the Internet, and as the global standard bearer in both economic and political freedom, we must continue to lead in holding the Chinese government accountable, and we must lead by example."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyinternetCisco SystemsComputer and Communications Industry AssociationEd BlackOffice of U.S. Trade RepresentativeGil KaplanChris SmithCommittee to Support U.S. Trade LawsJohn ZhangU.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?