From the blog posts and photos coming out of China, it looks like everyone on the Geeks on a Plane trip to China is having a great time. Friend + GOAP organizer Dave McClure, along with few others, even got to meet Secretary Clinton who happened to be visiting Shagahi at the same time:
However, some of the email conversations I’ve been on with members of delegation have included their surprise at the sites that they are unable to access due to the censorship of Internet connectivity there (aka the Great Firewall of China).
Joking aside, many worthwhile and important sites, such as BBC News (disclosure: I am a former long-term employee) remain blocked and unavailable to the population of China.
It is for this reason that I personally would have been uncomfortable about visiting China in a business capacity, and certainly on a high-profile organized industry trip like GOAP (which I was invited to attend but turned down for other reasons).
As it happens, I’ve visited China, but simply for leisure to ‘see for myself’, especially to explore the nature of the censorship, regime and the way of life there.
This is not an attack on my friend Dave and I support the increase of industry ties with other countries.
However I hope that the GOAP trip of Internet entrepreneurs is not perceived to be a legitimization or acceptance of the regime’s censored internet access. Nor should we forget the still recent attacks on Google and other western-operated internet assets that appear to be state-sponsored. It is also worth remembering that China does not welcome foreign companies and startups to operate out of China without domestic co-ownership.
At a time when Google is clearing out its offices in China and refusing to cooperate with China’s censorship demands, the lack of any acknowledgment (and perhaps even condemnation) of these issues by GOAP is definitely disappointing.
As I said, this is not an attack on Dave or anyone else attending. And I also understand that while they are physically in China it may not be the best time to express these opinions.
But before the chapter is closed on the GOAP:China expedition, I certainly hope that some recognition of these issues are made – perhaps even some suggestions on what we can all do, as Internet entrepreneurs and professionals, to place pressure for change. For freedom from censorship, freedom from attack and freedom to operate a wholly-owned entity in the local market.