Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 24, 2017

Conflict in China has become a tech problem. In the Koreas, it’s become an ideological time bomb.

They are all connected—technology, economy, communication, and ideology. These become a vicious cycle with no happy ending, at least none in sight.

Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook take turns bossing around governments in the West. China wants nothing to do with that. Who can blame them? They simply ban them—along with the ability to do tech research with them.

Governments require sovereignty. Sovereignty requires resources. Resources require economics. Economics require research. Research requires communication. Communication requires, well, communication. Innovation is a state of mind that affects all of a person’s ideas, both in terms of technology and political values. If Chinese researchers want to improve their own technology, they will have to read papers written by pro-democracy experts from the West.

China’s ban on communication isn’t just about controlling political ideas among the masses; it’s about not letting Google boss around a country with 1.3 Billion people like it does with Europe. Sure, the challenges in China accompany the normal list of symptoms associated with any Communist State.

North Korea is a well-documents flash back to the 1950s.  A returned defector hungers for the handouts she had in poverty rather than needing to and being able to work for her own living. The same happened when the iron curtain fell in Russia. Slaves love their chains.

Communist governments supply all their people’s needs, including food. Necessity is the mother of invention. People who grow up without need grow up without invention. That affects the economy. If government gives people food then they won’t have new ideas to fuel the economy.

Vietnam, though more and more free, doesn’t even think of an email address as a normal item on a business card. Communist countries close their doors and don’t progress. People learn to lie to survive. Soon, laws get ignored, including safety laws. Industrial accidents rise. People stop sharing information about anything, especially themselves. Governments don’t know which laws to make for the people because they don’t know what real people do because the people are punished for saying what they do.

The other option—Google takes over. Where is anyone to go?

Linkedin has a potential way forward while other social companies have failed. But, therein lies an inherant problem. Consider the word roots—”social” media is an affront to “Socialism” by etymological definition. Of course Communist China would never let Facebook in—never. The day Facebook enters China the Communist party falls. Apple is trying to enter the market that makes their phones, but Apple faces bigger problems than the closed doors of Communism; Apple is being defeated by both the Western economy and Linux.

Only Linkedin remains with a way forward because their service passes personal information publicly, through “profiles”. Making personal information public is not the kind of crackdown Communists tend to make. But, the problem there is social: People learn to conceal their true selves in a Communist State. Moreover, in a dynastic culture with thousands of years of “emperors”, publicly stating who your friends are indicates guilt. Who does that, anyway? In the milieu of laws shooting in the dark at problems they don’t understand, everyone is a criminal of some blue law, so declaring your friends is self-inditing through guilt by association. Making truth about oneself available to the public is near suicide in any closed country.

Linkedin’s path forward requires social change. They could do it. China shouldn’t object to running ads encouraging people to divulge information about themselves. But, the people will quickly start to feel entitled to free speech in order to do that. And, they will expect to not be indited for saying that they had noodles at a shop frequented by a mafia boss. Culture clash is coming if Linkedin even tries, but that never stopped the parent company Microsoft before.

Still, it will take time, probably too long for short-attention-spanned shareholders. Linkedin is too big to be patient long enough for any progress, but they might pave a way to a new business model for someone to come after them. While ideologies and technologies come and go, people as a whole always push forward and overcome.

The West should thank China for being closed. They seem to be the only ones really sticking it to Google and Facebook. Apple also owes China a big thank you: when your irreplaceable mastermind dies, “blaming it on the Communists” always works in a quarterly review. While the Communist debate always remains, the Fascist debate can always rebound. Thanks to Communism holding big-money Fascism at bay, the need for new technology has been granted on a silver platter. Thanks to China’s unintended consequences, something new is on the way and it’s bigger than all of us.

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