This story resurfaces about once a year or so, triggered by some new bit of hypocritical outrage or the other. This time it is Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times saying that we should boycott Microsoft's Bing because Microsoft is kowtowing to the Chinese government in how it allows Bing to report search results that might offend the powers that be in China.
These bits of outrage are always cloaked in righteousness over human rights and how terrible China's record is. That's old history, well known, and unfortunately shared by too many other places in the world with which we do business.
Here's an excerpt from Kristof's piece
Western corporations have often behaved embarrassingly in China, sacrificing any principles to ingratiate themselves with the Communist Party authorities. Yahoo was the worst, handing over information about several email account holders so that they could be arrested – and then dissembling and defending its monstrous conduct. Now Microsoft is sacrificing the integrity of Bing searches so as to cozy up to State Security in Beijing. In effect, it has chosen become part of the Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus.
Here's where the hypocrisy comes in. I'm guessing Kristof, just like anyone else using a computer these days, typed those words on a computer or terminal with parts made in some Chinese factory. I don't think he's even considered that. The bottom line is this. The world of business, unfortunately, stops for nothing, except a better business proposition. If we are going to take a high and mighty stand on human rights, or any other issue, and start screaming and banning, start screaming and banning all contact and all trade. The tech biz depends on China, and the myopic tend to forget that when these issues surface. Our economy would cease to exist if we stopped doing business with all the evil folk in the world. Just ask the Saudi's.
Look, I despise any attempts at squelching human rights or freedom. I'm not a Microsoft Bing fan either. But the reality and history favors the long view more than the quick peek of indignity at that which offends a sense of goodness. The fact that Microsoft, and other businesses are engaged there, even under restraints, will have a far better chance of furthering any advances in human rights than if they did not.
But then the long view is tough to sell when you're too busy typing on your Chinese made keyboard, and editing your text on your Chinese made monitor.