Austin Bay

Conceding he could not prove his assessments "beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law," he said he believed "such persistent, systematic and sophisticated attacks ... most likely are state-directed." He noted that Chinese dissident organizations like Falun Gong have been "singled out by the Chinese Communist Party leadership for suppression. It is the organs of control and repression in China that need the type of information that was extracted from Google and who most profit from such penetrations."

Which leads to China's cyber-struggles. Beijing complains that the U.S. has extraordinary cyber-warfare capabilities, and it does. China's worries, however, go well beyond protecting military secrets and electrical grids: FREE information, disseminated by unfettered digital media on the Internet, threatens political control by communist elites.

China may have weathered the global recession, but if it has, Beijing regards its success as tentative, for even slow economic growth threatens the communist elites' deal with the Chinese people: We will let you get wealthy, just don't question the political structure. Beijing knows this.

Fear of losing its grip on dissidents during a period of economic stress played a role in China's January cyber-attack on Google's email service for Chinese clients. Google began Chinese operations in 2006 and admits it censored Chinese Internet search results. What an ugly side-story: A liberal California company that makes billions of dollars in the digital free information regimen (that ultimately owes its existence to the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment) acceded to the censorship demands of authoritarians. At least Google now says no more.

This week, Google left China for Hong Kong. But isn't Hong Kong in China? At the moment, Beijing still respects its "One China, Two Systems." Hong Kong makes money -- its Basic Law, which protects free information, is one reason.

Two political systems, but for Beijing, one firewall. Bloomberg News reported that on March 23 Internet searches for "Tiananmen" (1989 Tianamen Square massacre) "on computers in Shanghai and Beijing could not be displayed, suggesting the (Beijing) government had started limiting access."

Free, wealth-generating economies need free information. China's communist elites, however, can't yet risk it.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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