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July 21, 2005



Clearly, there should be a law against this kind of corporate behavior.
The other question would be, what brands should one avoid buying, to avoid giving business to Cisco?

Hungry Valley

That's a very good question and one I'm trying to wrestle with as two organizations I consult for are nearing a network upgrade decision point. I'm looking for a good way to bring it up in planning meetings. It will matter to them. Personally, I am putting off my own much, much smaller upgrade once again. This time it is not on expense grounds.

Daniel W. McAndrew

I can't help but note certain parallels between the recent SCOTUS ruling on the Grokster case (mfg liabilities on their p2p networking devices, inducing copyright infringement) and this equipment [made in the USA] being sold to communist regime.

This isn't what our great country was meant for - to help in furthering the aims of regimes incompatible with our own.

Absolutely disgusting.

Brian Kennedy

A ban on Cisco selling such equipment to elements of the Chinese security apparatus would be all well and good. Its effects, however, would be negligible as the PSB et al would simply source through offshore companies via Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong or any number of other places. Hell, they could probably have a holding company source the gear in Taipei. You know, a high-tech twist on selling the rope with which you'll be hanged.
Rounding up consultancy providers likely wouldn't be much harder.
You are of course correct in your assessment of Chinese companies and their "cooperation" with the Chinese government, but I'd take it a step further and state that major Chinese companies are a de facto commecial arm of the Chinese government and will "cooperate closely" (i.e. do as they're told) with ANY Chinese government organ, particularly the military and security establishment.
So what's the solution?
Who knows. One can only hope a spirited, technologically saavy underground opposition will stay a step ahead of the totalitarian dullards.

Jeremy Goldkorn

I am very happy to have the Internet in China at all — I remember the days when it was a struggle to get hold of a copy of Time magazine in Beijing. Whereas in China today today, you have access to almost as much information online as anyone in America, although because of filtering, it is slightly more difficult to find out about certain topics that the Communist Party would rather no one talked about.

If Cisco is blamed for filtering the Chinese Internet, they should also be praised for being a part of building it in the first place.

As you know Rebecca, your website is blocked in China, so I have taken the liberty of reproducing your post in full on (with my comments as above) on my website - Danwei.org which is not blocked in China.

Alfred Thompson

I don't see any real difference between selling something to the Chinese police and any other agency of the Chinese government. That includes government controlled businesses. Any of them could easily transfer assets to the security agencies. As could private citizens and businesses. So should we prohibit all sales of networking gear to China? What else should not be allowed to be sold to China that is currently legal? It seems a bit simplistic to say "Police bad, other parts of the government good." I mean I am can see an arguement that says we (US companies) should not do business or some kinds of business with China. I just want to know where the line should be drawn.

Thomas Dahlgren

Apalling, but unsurprising. Cisco is engaged in business that is morally odious but potentially quite lucrative. Corporations do not have a conscience and it is unrealistic to expect them to limit their behavior in the absence of legal or financial consequences.

Of course this is not intended as an argument against the imposition of such consequences. It is absurd that we are expending so much to bring a degree of freedom and liberty to Southwest Asia but cannot even muster some simple legislation to protect the citizens of other nations. Even if we wish to avoid legislating morality, such laws would also be in our own national interests.

Used to Rhyme with Disco

I do have to wonder about Cisco's foot in the Chinese market, as it relates specifically to what looks pretty clearly like the Huawei theft of Cisco source code (perhaps by one of those H-1B visa holders working in San Jose.)

I wonder if that Huawei code, modified to do "dirty tricks," can be loaded on a Cisco router.

My money is on "yes."

But then, that begs the question, why would the Chinese buy Cisco gear if they can get the same from Huawei? I'd guess offhand it's because Cisco is doing all the bleeding-edge R&D work, financed by sales to China.

But that's all just a guess.

Brendon Carr

One Cisco brand which is probably very familiar to many bloggers is Linksys, pioneers of low-cost networking equipment like the very router I am using now. If you want to take it out on Cisco, don't buy Linksys.

Personally, I'm with Jeremy Goldkorn on this one. On the whole, Cisco's role in building Internet in China redounds to *more* freedom for the Chinese, not less.

C. Owen Johnson

I'm afraid Rebecca MacKinnon and some of the comment here are missing the real point entirely. The real point is that the Chinese are becoming increasingly dependant on US intrastructure. For decades, the PRC has made a lot of noise about become technologically self-sufficient, especially in IT, but their homegrown products never work as well or are as affordable as Western [especially US] equipment. They used to resist using western products in key areas [like the security services and the PLA] but practical considerations [and bribes] sometimes got the better of them. This shows that PRC security standards are still eroding; getting our IT equipment into the PRC security services is something of a coup.

So whatever profit Cisco makes on China [and it's not very much], the strategic implications of China's security organs depending on US IT equipment are huge. Far from being appalling, this should be applauded: owning your enemy's IT infrastructure is the single greatest advantage one can have these days.

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