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Commentary :: International : Media : Politics : Technology
Is NSA Spying a Case of China Business Blowback?
18 Jan 2006
Modified: 10:03:09 AM
Capitalism isn’t bringing freedom to China, but it does seem to be bringing totalitarian control systems back from China to the U.S. courtesy of American business.
As far back as the Nixon administration, American business and politicians of both parties have repeated the mantra that doing business with the police state of China was a good thing because with the wonders of free enterprise inevitably would come other freedoms.

The argument, long touted by conservative economists like Milton Friedman, was always suspect, since the people making it have never evidenced any interest in or concern about freedom themselves, and since their real motivation was so obviously making money in China, not promoting freedom.

Now it turns out that far from spreading freedom to China, American business's growing links with China's military/fascist regime are having a perverse kind of blowback, an insidious infiltration of fascist control techniques made in China and transferred to the United States.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the policing of China’s Internet--actually a gigantic nation-wide intranet, with controlled nodes and firewalls with the outside world--was designed and is being operated with the active and enthusiastic assistance of all of the major Internet companies in the U.S.: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Skype, etc. These companies have built the technologies and provided the assistance China's government has needed to allow it to block words and concepts from view in China, and, equally serious, to track down and arrest those who spread ideas of freedom and resistance.

By providing those American companies with a market for such anti-democratic technologies, China has encouraged and financed the research that almost certainly has also been opportunistically adopted by our own increasingly authoritarian regime.

We've just learned that the National Security Agency was authorized by President Bush to spy at will on Americans without any need to go to a judge and show probable cause, and in fact to use a "vacuum-cleaner" approach of monitoring key words to spy on the electronic messages of tens of thousands and perhaps millions of citizens. That is, Bush asked the NSA to start doing exactly what the Chinese government does to users of the Internet in China. Does anyone doubt that in doing all this, the NSA was making use of the very control and monitoring technologies that were developed by the likes of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo for use in China?

Of course that’s what it did. That's how the military-industrial-security complex operates, via a nexus with corporate America.We can be sure that when it had a job to do, the NSA turned to the experts in the field.

And for this, we can thank China and the American advocates of "free trade" with repressive regimes.

Tom Friedman's flat world will indeed be flat, with no unorthodox ideas allowed to stand out, if China ends up being the model market for the American companies that are building the internet of the future.

For other articles by Dave Lindorff, please go to:
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Re: Is NSA Spying a Case of China Business Blowback?
18 Jan 2006
Good points.
Another important facet to this topic is that China spies on the U.S. and U.S. citizens. And we spy on China (for a good example, see the 2001 spy plane incident). While on one level our governments are allies, on another we're in competition for strategic dominance-- specifically, in Central Asia and in the Western Pacific. And the competition is cut-throat, which isn't surprising given the tremendous stakes.

Also, in terms of intelligence gathering on U.S. citizens, there are some formal checks (very weak but still in existence) on how the U.S. can go about it. But there are no rules, really, on how other countries can spy on our citizens and we on theirs-- and then swap information.