Network China Vs Command China


Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times that China's restrictive internet policies are bumping up against its need to foster a data-dependent modern economy.

He contrasts the old, Party-centric model, which he calls "Command China," with the new, business-driven model, which he calls "Network China:"

I would argue that Command China, in its efforts to suppress, curtail and channel knowledge flows into politically acceptable domains that will indefinitely sustain the control of the Communist Party -- i.e., censoring Google -- is increasingly at odds with Network China, which is thriving by participating in global knowledge flows. That is what the war over Google is really all about: It is a proxy and a symbol for whether the Chinese will be able to freely search and connect wherever their imaginations and creative impulses take them, which is critical for the future of Network China.

I couldn't have said it better myself, but at least I have the satisfaction of saying it first:

It would be easy enough for the government to tighten its restrictions on information flow, at least on a technical level, especially as China's internet traffic flows through a handful of choke-points.

But it's hard to imagine businesses functioning without secure internet connections. The old joke has it that that bank owns you if you owe $1,000, but if you owe $10,000,000, you own the bank. That logic holds when information is the critical asset.

Just as the US owes China so much money that we have leverage over our creditors, the regime's fondness for data-dependent modern businesses makes those highly-secure network connections hard for the post-Communist authoritarians to break.


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