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July 12, 2005


Jon Garfunkel

Granted: disinformation, manipulation, political ignorance, and "an Internet that feels free" thrive in our democracy as well.


I've always been skeptical of the notion that China will be the leading economic power in the world some day soon. Not that it is impossible--far from it--it is very possible and even logical. But all throughout Chinese history, the governement in power has found a way to screw things up through ultra-conservative reactions to technology and changes brought from innovation and accomplishment. Maybe this is it in out times (or times soon to come, at least). China could produce a "national Intranet" that doesn't play nicely with others on the Internet, but it would be the death of their national prosperity. Closed systems (speaking IT still) just don't work well and end up having to open up some or die.

1) China needs to play along with the rest of the world if they expect to keep up on technological development. Improvements in software, routing protocols, and encryption algorithms all lie in the public domain--or at least the free market domain. To reject them is suicide, really, as proprietary systems are notoriously insecure, slow, unstable, and expensive (see Microsoft). All too ironically, IPV6 and WAPI were developed by global organisations that had little to no input from China, as an example. (2) If they want to remain part of the global economy and keep global investment coming onto their country, they will have play nicely with others (again, IT speaking). To not do so is to risk trillions of dollars.

From a purely pragmatic approach, it's rather illogical that some in the Chinese government may well be thinking along these lines of creating a "Chinese Internet". They are undoubtedly having some great success with their filtering products and are making open and free speech very difficult. There is no need to go further, just refine it and accept the fact that some things will leak out. To go to such radical lengths of creating a separate Internet is well within the economic cliche of diminshing returns. It's so radical as to seem unbelievable, really. But this is the same nation that rejected the printing press, sophisticated maritime travel, and the weaving loom, so I can't refuse to accept any possibility.

Whatever the hypotheticals, this is interesting, indeed. Thanks, Rebecca. This is fun.


CORRECTION to the above. I was thinking 802.11i when I saw WAPI. WAPI was developed by the Chinese and, if it is ever adopted in large scale, will be hacked quickly, I'm quite confident (see the Cisco/Microsoft LEAP protocol). Proprietary algorithms get hacked quickly--just the way it works.


I find this counter-argument interesting:


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