As usual, Rebecca MacKinnon has the best coverage of the current state of censorship in China. She is a must read. Her latest post is on MSNSpaces censorship of the popular blog written by Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti. She also links to Microsoft employees blog posts criticizing and defending the companies policies.
In the comments section on both posts there is a high-level discussion of the issue. Is engagement on China's terms the best policy because it allows the company to operate in China? Or is it a sign of complicity that sends the wrong signal.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’m still not sure what the “right” answer is. I have no doubt that the Internet’s deployment in China will be a positive step towards democratizing the country. But if Microsoft is just capturing market share for a product that isn’t as freedom enhancing as it might otherwise be if produced by a different, perhaps local vendor, than they are doing a real disservice to the Chinese people. The business strategies Microsoft has been criticized for employing – vaporware, predatory pricing, tying, dumping—pale next to over-complying with Chinese law in an attempt to dominate the market and keep out freedom-friendly competitors.
Reading Issac Mao, I’m concerned that is what is happening.