Now China has tightened its grip on the much more variegated world of online information, effectively forcing Google Inc., the world’s premier information provider, to choose between submitting to Chinese censorship and leaving the world’s largest community of Internet users to its rivals. It chose to leave.

Google’s decision may not cause major problems for China right away, experts said. But in the longer run, they said, China’s intransigent stance on filtering the flow of information within its borders has the potential to weaken its links to the global economy

My thinking was at first that this confrontation had all of its conditions of possibility in our post-national moment—a moment that finds nations not fighting other nations but corporations (Google) or gangs (Al-Qaeda). But the more thought I put into the matter the more it begins to look like something not from the present moment nor the future but the deepest past.

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Is this not a recurrence of that other China? The ancient China that does not build robotic cities and electric trains but walls around itself and considers itself its own and complete world? Recall how our history teachers went on and on about how ancient China had the means to dominate the world but did not. It instead turned inward and became stuck in time. Europe, on the other, took Chinese technologies and transformed the world into its own image.

The Communist Manifesto says it exactly:

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
This Google business might be as old as the walled hills of China.
  • Grayskull