I found very welcome the news that Google would no longer remain complicit in the suppression and censorship of information in China. James Fallows sees the move as highly consequential for China’s relationship with the rest of the world, and calls this the beginning of China’s "Bush-Cheney Era":
"In a strange and striking way there is an inversion of recent Chinese and U.S. roles. In the switch from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, the U.S. went from a president much of the world saw as deliberately antagonizing them to a president whose Nobel Prize reflected (perhaps desperate) gratitude at his efforts at conciliation. China, by contrast, seems to be entering its Bush-Cheney era…its government is on a path at the moment that courts resistance around the world. To me, that is what Google’s decision signifies."
As Fallows notes, part of Google’s argument when it agreed to China’s censorship restrictions was that some access to information was better than none. Whatever merit there is to that point of view, to me Google’s decision shows that there is a base incompatibility between China’s authoritarian free-market model, and the sort of open access to information necessary for such a free market to flourish long-term. The biggest brand in the world has found its business model to be in unresolvable tension with the government of the People’s Republic. To me this is an astounding symbolic statement.
China’s ongoing grand experiment is to prove wrong the argument that political freedom is a necessary and ineluctable corollary to economic freedom. Google’s decision shows that the Chinese people truly have neither.