Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The China Conundrum and its implications for international cyber-security – 21

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on November 29, 2011

This is my 22nd installment in a series focusing on China, counting a supplemental posting added in on China’s demographics challenges (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, postings 69 and scattered following.) And I build in this posting on a foundation that I have explicitly been developing in the last two series postings of that: Part 19 and Part 20, doing so with China’s upcoming leadership transitions of 2012 in mind.

China is currently facing a range of significant and growing challenges, and it is facing the prospect of new and emerging challenges as well. I have recently turned in my overall discussion of China to consider its upcoming opportunity to find and institute new and novel approaches for dealing with and resolving these issues. And at the end of Part 20 of this series I stated that China needs a new leadership with the vision and courage that Deng Xiaoping brought to the Politburo and its Standing Committee, when he and his colleagues first challenged the still ongoing grip of Mao Zedong’s legacy.

Deng challenged the blind assumptions that led from Mao’s imperial aspirations to the Great Leap Forward and after that to his Cultural Revolution. Now China has to face the limitations and the disastrous long term consequences of continuing to pursue Mao’s vision and model of centralized control.

• China cannot have an economic opening up and it cannot become a business and marketplace leader in the global arena and still deny its citizens an open and more democratic voice.
• This contradiction in goals – keeping their public clamped down and without individual voice, while encouraging them to enter the marketplace as successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople carries within it the same seeds of failure that led to the downfall of China in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

And outsiders such as me can think through and write about these issues and about China’s need for change, but any valid resolution to this will have to come from within, and from people who like Deng can bridge the chasm between insider who has risen through the ranks to leadership authority, and outsider who can think and act outside of the standard ideological trap that China is currently in.

And this brings me back to the information flow and national conversation, and to the cyber-security issues and perspectives that formed one of the core sources of impetus for my writing this series in the first place.

• The people of China are providing a roadmap to a more inclusively involved and empowered future that they seek, every time they reach out to obtain or to share information online, and through the increasingly ubiquitous networking of connectivity and communications capabilities that they too are coming to have access too.
• The Golden Shield Project that China’s central government seeks to clamp down on this with in internal conversation and information sharing, carries with it the same internal contradictions that led to the worst failures of Mao’s nationally defining programs – his Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. China cannot simultaneously enable and connect it citizens to realize its marketplace and business competitiveness goals, and at the same time forestall and block the possibility of matching social and political connection too.

As I write this I find myself thinking back to Part 2 of this series and of the distinction between rule of law, and rule of man and of individuals in positions of power. China has a complex, detailed legal code, but they are still in many respects governed more by the rule of man than of law and this shows, and overtly in many ways:

• When there is a crisis such as a natural disaster and infrastructure failures highlight that local governments overlooked the law and ignored it in pursuit of kickbacks and bribes. Consider recent public building collapses from shoddy and substandard construction – including schools with great loss of life during an earthquake.
• When environmental and other societally impacting challenges come out of the black and gray markets that China is burdened with. Consider the environmental pollution and other challenges that have come out of illegal rare earth mining.
• When population redistribution and relocation programs are carried out at the cost of marginalizing and harming minority and un-empowered communities.
• When word of all of this and more leak through all of the barriers to open communication that the state seeks to put in place.

I have been writing about the issues alluded to in these bullet points throughout the course of this series, so rather than repeat all of my reasoning and evidence behind them here, I refer you to my earlier series postings. Instead, I turn to two resources that China needs to actively and even proactively protect, promote and develop:

• Open communications and opportunity for all of China’s people to reach their potential, and
• Their emerging middle class where members of their society are starting to so succeed.

Both will require a shift to a more genuine rule of law, and with both prosecuting and defense attorneys afforded genuine protection and support where matters have to be resolved in the courts. All of these points and more will require a letting go of overriding authority and control from the center and on all issues, and with the central government and provincial leadership focusing on managing areas of conduct and interaction where central authority really provides open societal value. And I add that China’s leadership is going to have to reconsider some of its rogue state practices with regard to the international community that China is part of too. I am going to turn to this complex of issues in my next series installment, with among other things a discussion of the love/hate relationship that China’s leadership holds with social media and online communications in their country.

You can find this and related posting and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time.

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