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Google Scientist Resigns Over “Forfeiture of Our Values” in China (theintercept.com)
475 points by jessaustin 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 272 comments



Background: I've spent the first 25 years of my life in China, and the next 20 in the US. I know my opinion probably won't be popular, just wanna point out a few things missing in the current discussion.

Most of us here on HN are entrepreneurs. We wanna make something useful to the world and make tons of money in return. Just as we should look at what kind of impact our products have on our users' lives, in the discussion of whether Google should return to China, we shouldn't focus on the Chinese government and ignore the 1 billion Chinese people.

If Google launch a new Google.cn:

1. The Chinese government won't benefit much from this. Compared to these Chinese companies, Google will always be an outsider. It will have to work with the government, but won't be eager to do so, and might cause troubles to the government from time to time.

2. The Chinese people will benefit a lot! Without good competition, the dominant search engine Baidui has become such a bad actor over the years. If you are annoyed by Google ads, Baidu is 100 times worse, especially on mobile devices. For many search terms, the first a few pages are all ads. People are really fed up with this. In a recent survey by Sina (http://finance.sina.com.cn/stock/s/2018-08-07/doc-ihhkuskt26...) 72.8% the users surveied wanna use Google if it goes back to China.

If you were a farmer in the North right before the civil war, you probably would still have been willing to sell to the people living in the south that are against slavery, even if Southern government would benefit from tax.


What is the difference between three pages filled with ads and three pages removed from censorship? I would argue the second one is worse, although I imagine Baidu is just a combination of both.


I think part of what you suggesting, is that to change this system, you must be part of the system first, instead of trying to change it from the outside. Instead of sitting outside, moaning about it. They could have actively work on / against from within.


Your opening statement of "make something useful to the world and make tons of money in return" is completely antithetical to all discussion in and around this article. That idea of amoral profit at all costs is exactly the point the employee in the article is refuting.

Point 1 makes no sense, Project Dragonfly demonstrates a willingness to work with the Chinese government in the first place, so this does what for the Chinese people?

And in point 2, your only claim of the provided benefit is less annoying ads? Really? This is not a very convincing argument and reads like standard HN Chinese astroturfing...


> Point 1 makes no sense

Because all the companies operating in China already cooperate with the Chinese government. Google entering or not entering China changes nothing about the control of the Chinese government over its people.

> so this does what for the Chinese people?

Bringing a better search engine back while leaving everything else (like censorship) at its status quo.


> This is not a very convincing argument and reads like standard HN Chinese astroturfing...

Why is that not convincing, when you see how popular any ads related discussion in HN is(only yesterday something about brave browser..)?


[flagged]


Part of it for me is I believe the mountains along the south of China protect one of the Earth’s most sacred cultural geographies, and I think China’s erasure of that is immoral.

If the U.S. were to try to block discussion of mezo-American people and cultures, I would feel the same.

I think the U.S./Mexico border is an equivalent global cultural crime and would not want any company I work for to support its construction.


No one hates China. People rightly point out that the government doesn’t provide rule of law and stands against our values. That we don’t do this consistently with all offenders is because China is the biggest threat right now. Russia has much less clout and power than China, for example.


China has been waging economic war against the US for decades, stealing IP, syphoning off wealth from the American middle class in order to attempt and establish their own. All while throwing people in political prisons, threatening the territorial integrity of their neighbors, putting the whole of Africa in debtor's prison, etc. And it's only just begun.

You are asking with a straight face why the above isn't looked upon in the same way as the actions of Phillipines, Nigeria or Germany? Seriously?


> At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin made clear that he was strongly opposed to the censorship. Brin had spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union, and said that he was “particularly sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties” due to his family’s experiences there. In 2010, after the company pulled its search engine out of China, Brin told the Wall Street Journal that “with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents” he saw “earmarks of totalitarianism [in China], and I find that personally quite troubling.”

Poulson's view seems to align with Brin's view from 2010. I wonder what Brin would have to say about the issue today, because the facts in China have not changed much since 2010, certainly not to the better.


> I wonder what Brin would have to say about the issue today, because the facts in China have not changed much since 2010, certainly not to the better.

I wonder about this too.

By this point, it's pretty clear that Google's strategy of leaving China hasn't led to any improvement in China with respect to censorship and individual liberties. Instead, Chinese companies that are willing to do whatever the Chinese government wants without question have filled the gap that Google left.

I wonder if he's concluded that this strategy is a failure and the best way to improve conditions is to re-enter China, even if it means playing by their rules.


These are not easy questions.

Taking this to an absurd level: If the Aztecs still existed and were sacrificing humans with their volcanic rock blades. Should we sell them at least some steel blades, so their victims could die a little quicker and less painful death? Or should we absolutely abstain from selling any weapons to those murderous bastards?

I don't know.


We do trade embargoes against North Korea, but not against Saudi Arabia. Maybe because the latter is (or seems) less brutal.

Before a certain size and/or complexity use of force to literally force changes seems like the best option. But above that, there's no point in waging a war for more world happiness.

And then, on the other end of the spectrum we have the sophisticated autocratic propaganda machines (that are democratic in name), where people 4 year after 4 year vote in (almost) the same kleptocrats. Of course the election system favors the ruling party, of course there's a lot of ordinary cheating, of course the ruling party somehow manages to spend many times more on campaigning than the opposition, but the brain washing works, so why not?


> Maybe because the latter is (or seems) less brutal Or maybe not [1] [2]

[1] - https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/sa...

[2] - https://www.businessinsider.com.au/saudi-arabia-crucified-ma...


The idea that you can change the system from within is incredibly naive and usually put forward as a justification for wanting to exploit that system.


Brin spoke a bit about it to employees recently, and thinks it has "certain trade-offs": https://theintercept.com/2018/08/17/internal-meeting-reveals...

He stopped talking shortly thereafter because a Google employee was leaking his statements to a reporter in realtime.

(My guess is the trade-off between the moral issues and the ability to like plate his yacht in platinum.)


I think that the trade-off is described better between the moral issues and the ability to provide your service to more users. I don't think making even more money is much of a factor anymore for Page and Brin.


Would you not describe the benefit of having more users being... More money?


Or let's just say hypothetically it's not. Why do they feel the need to have more users?

I'm of the opinion anyone who's still in the game after becoming a billionaire is doing so for non-monetary reasons. At this point it might not be about money, but power? Either way...


a) more users doesn't necessarily imply that (though in this case is probably does), and b) it's about the "why" - The conclusion from "more users = more money" to "must be about money" isn't universally true, as it ignores any and every other possible motivation. E.g. power, legacy, success.


Wouldn't the prospect of billions of dollars for you personally change your mind?


If you already have more billions of dollars that you could ever spend on, what difference does an additional billion of dollars make?

I suppose not knowing the answer to that questions makes me likely not to become a billionaire...


I know Jack and based on all my dealings with him, I am not surprised he would act on his conscience in this regard.

I'm not sure I feel as strongly on this subject as he does. Nevertheless, he is one of the finest minds I've ever encountered.


I'd argue that what Google is doing is in the US's interests.

As I see it the choice is to either do what Google is doing, which means being involved, staying relevant, and making a few bucks along the way, or to stay away. In the latter case the only result will be diminished influence for Google and by extension the USA, as that won't damage China at all, it will just leave the door open for new Chinese tech giants.

It's called realpolitik.


Can you expand on how staying relevant in China (acquiesce to the demands of the Chines Govt.) helps the human rights concerns long time? And why should a private company act on behalf of the interests of the US Govt.?


Whether Google works with the Chinese government or not will have absolutely no impact on human rights.

The only question is whether Google and American interests want to be in the room or left outside in the cold.

It's always better to be involved and informed.


> Whether Google works with the Chinese government or not will have absolutely no impact on human rights.

That assertion only makes sense if you assume that helping perpetuate human rights abuses has no impact on human rights abuses.


No, the point is that if Google does not work with them then they'll do exactly the same without Google.


That's a lazy argument and one I personally find morally repugnant.

It's no different than the justification some use when we talk about the ethical ramifications of selling arms to middle eastern states in conflict.

"They are going to buy their arms from someone, it may as well be us!"


I am commenting from a national interests/geostrategic angle.

It is amoral almost by definition.


National and Geostrategic interests are amoral by definition?

Only if you are an amoral actor that cares not a bit about human rights or ability to self-determination.

It is very much in the interests of the US and every democracy to uphold human rights and self-determination at every turn and every possible location in the world.

Failure to do so enables dictators, authoritarians, and criminals. The fact that we've often failed to do so, or do it well, does not mitigate the benefits when we it is done well, or the damage when we fail.

And make no mistake, failure is what you are pushing.

The only question is whether you are doing it right now as a shill for the CCP, or only because you are amoral?


If there is an argument to be made, it's that without Google's help, they would end up with a worse search product. This kind of "resign in protest" gesture is one that made a bit more sense in the early days of globalization when the US was clearly dominant.


>Whether Google works with the Chinese government or not will have absolutely no impact on human rights.

NONSENSE. Google would be explicitly applying the best and brightest in the world to help CCP achieve its goals sooner and better.

CCP may indeed ultimately achieve those goals themselves, but it would be much later and with less expertise.

Delay and degrading anti-human-rights capabilities is a good unto itself, and a good to the US and every democracy.

Sometimes it is not better to be informed and involved with what are basically criminal gangs.

Are you promoting this because you are amoral or because you are a shill for the CCP?


> And why should a private company act on behalf of the interests of the US Govt.?

Because when you don't, they make your existence difficult, to varying degrees?


It really depends on what you think of as "The USA"

Google is building infrastructure for the powerful to control the masses' ability to communicate ideas.

Do you think the USA is "The People"? Then this is bad for them, because one of our most powerful companies is beginning to develop tools of direct social control.

Do you think the USA is the government & associated bureaucrats? Then this is good, because this technology will allow them to suppress threats to their authority.



This is absolutely true. Why is it getting down-voted?


The ideas aren't framed in a way that follows the standard thread of discourse


Odious nonsense.

Google are having zero influence on China's totalitarian government, and there is zero hope that they could have any such influence. It is either do what the CCP wants, when they want it, or Google gets booted anyway in favor of the locals.

Most likely, China is simply using them to build and steal the best surveillance technology faster. The better result from a human rights POV would be to have less-competent locals build it.

The sole exception would be if Google is working very tightly with NSA, CIA, etc. and actually installing a massive US spy network within China. While this is a possibility we wouldn't know about, it's unlikely given Google's culture.

So, no, this is not even close to being in the interests of the US or it's citizens (a few major Alphabet shareholders excepted).


> Google are having zero influence on China's totalitarian government, and there is zero hope that they could have any such influence

Exactly.

Therefore it is nonsense to be outraged by what Google is doing.


You have _entirely_ missed the context.

To spell it out, the GP was positing that by working with the CCP, Google was somehow adding western pro-human rights influence to the mix.

This is false because the CCP will allow no such influence.

Google's only possible influence is to enhance the effectiveness of the CCP's initiatives by adding Google's greater competence and development speed to the CCP's goal of mass surveillance and distorting or filtering the facts available to the Chinese people.

So, yes, since Google is enhancing the CCP's totalitarian goals of controlling the populace, outrage is quite appropriate (unless of course, you oppose the general principles of democracy and people being able to govern themselves).


I am the GP and I didn't suggest that this was adding any sort of pro-human rights influence. Likewise I don't think that Google is really enhancing the "CCP's totalitarian goals".

My angle is very much one of realpolitik, as already mentioned, and outrage is either naive or disingenuous.


So, providing it's world-beating expertise (vs a less-capable local team) to the practical implementation of CCP's totalitarian goals of surveillance and information restriction is not helping implement these goals?

Seriously? Talk about naive, that's textbook.

"Realpolitik" -- you may be right about that, since the first definition is "a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations."

In short, you say it is great as long as you consider only practical issues, and ignore all moral or ethical considerations.

So, you are either trolling to assist the CCP's goals or are simply advocating for behaving without ethics or morals. Which is it?

And I can assure you that outrage against helping totalitarian/authoritarian regimes is neither naive or disingenuous, at least for ethical people.

I suggest reading people who have actually lived in and fought such regimes, such as Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion and Russian Presidential candidate -- people who've actually been there, done that, buried their friends.

I assure you, they know the real score, and have zero tolerance for "realpolitik" bullst.


> Therefore it is nonsense to be outraged by what Google is doing.

I think you missed an important implication, from the context.

> Google are having zero influence on <limiting> China's totalitarian government


Well, not that I think this guy's gesture (brave though it might be) will amount to anything - China is the guinea pig. If mass surveillance and mass censorship work there, you can bet it'll come here, too. They can perfect it from a distance, at very little risk if things go wrong, and spring the trap on us when it's ready.


There are plenty of examples of governments with mass surveillance (UK, China, Singapore, many others). Mass censorship has been active in China for quite a long time. If you believe that the only way to prevent mass surveillance "here" (where do you live?) is to eradicate it everywhere, then I'm afraid that you've already lost. Hopefully your government is still functioning with regards to regulations and oversight of surveillance and freedom of the press.


This "influence" seems rather abstract. What does it really amount to? Any search engine in China has to operate under heavy restrictions.

Spending a lot of political capital to do the same thing as the other search engines in China doesn't seem like a good trade, politically. It makes a bit more sense as a way to make money, except that this doesn't seem like an area where China will let a foreign company win.


Google staying out of China absolutely hurts China.

Healthy competition and free exploration of markets leads to better tools which creates both economic and cultural value.

China is sacrificing that in order to maintain cultural control. It’s precisely the cost of Google’s absence which could twist their arm.

(Although I suspect they won’t change until they are forced to by censorship-resistant creatures which will spawn Jurrasic Park-style in the next decade from the morass of cheap electronic components and waste ideas)


Copying, especially in the Information Age is immensely powerful. Sure, the market selects between a successful copy and a shitty one, but there's still a long way to go before lack of a healthy [internal] market impedes China's "progress".


> As I see it the choice is to either do what Google is doing, which means being involved, staying relevant, and making a few bucks along the way, or to stay away. In the latter case the only result will be diminished influence for Google and by extension the USA, as that won't damage China at all, it will just leave the door open for new Chinese tech giants.

In the former case it means increased influence of China's authoritarian government over an important western company that billions use to learn about the world. China has already used the implied threat to the Chinese operations of several American airlines to force them to make political changes to their global websites (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-44948599).

What do you think will happen if China asks Google to make changes to the results ranking for this query (https://www.google.com/search?q=tibet), so that it can continue "to share China's development opportunities [and] invest in and operate in China?" There are a couple of links on the first page I'm sure the Chinese government would say do not "respect China's laws and rules, China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and the feelings of the Chinese people."


There's something to be said for increased contact between the cultures, as well.

Xi's trajectory is making me nervous right now, but then look at our current leadership. And their government DID lift a few hundred million people out of poverty over the last 30 years. Maybe we can work with that.


The world is much larger than just the US, and the interests of one country are rarely the interests of all citizens of the world (e.g. human rights).


Avoiding conflict or cold war is also in the interest of all citizens of the world.

Some of the rhetoric I'm seeing fly around on the topic sounds a little overheated to me, compared to how bad things could get.


You know what's overheated? Suggesting that the only way enforce human rights is through armed conflict or cold war.


There's not really other ways to do politics other than to project soft power (cold war) or hard power (armed conflict)


Well, there's always the bizarre weirdo's who believe we can design provably fair and cryptographically secure decentralized cosmopolitan egalitarian societies... but no one should pay these people any attention right?


Refusing to do business with totalitarian regimes dedicated to violate their citizen's human rights is in itself a way to leverage soft power.


That is a cold war if you do it at the national level. It is basically a trade embargo.

When you refuse to do business, and "encourage" your allies to do the same, then the other side begins to think that perhaps it may just be easier to take your resources by force.


Suggesting that the only way enforce human rights is through armed conflict or cold war is the way to win elections in the United States.


You won't help human rights in China by refusing to work there. And it's not clear how working there will influence human rights either way.

Based on that, better to be in than out.


> You won't help human rights in China by refusing to work there.

Maybe so, but you definitely can hurt human rights by working there. I would say providing censored search results (and putting an American stamp of approval on them) is hurting human rights there. Furthermore, giving an authoritarian government economic leverage over an American search engine company can hurt human rights here.


This is China. Search results are censored and people are fully aware of that.

This is a storm in a tea cup, but it shows that the US feel increasingly insecure when it comes to China.


Aware or not, they are still being manipulated.

25 years after Tiananmen, most Chinese university students have never heard of it

https://www.vox.com/2014/6/3/5775918/25-years-after-tiananme...


Lots of stuff gets swept under the rug. I received 13 years of USA primary and secondary education, and I've traveled in the Philippines. Despite that, I didn't learn until earlier this week that USA soldiers had killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos at the turn of the century.


That wasn't something that was done by people still alive and in power.


It's true that very few USA officials have been in office for 120 years. I'm not sure why that matters? USA actions during and after the Philippine-American War aren't substantially different than our actions in several subsequent wars. Although lots of Americans disagreed with it at the time, there's only enough room in the library for so many Mark Twain books. As these things do, pretty soon it all took on a sort of awful momentum, and then talking about it was pointless. McKinley himself played it off as just a tragic circumstance: "If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed that Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us."

"Gosh, if only we had known there were no WMDs!" Nothing about the Philippine-American War made it into any history book ever assigned to any student in USA, just as nothing about the liars who killed 600,000 Iraqis ever will. Aware or not, we are still being manipulated.


These are fair points, but don't address the fact that nobody is trying to hide the Iraq war from the internet.


I read lots of articles about Meuller, but none of them mention his testimony in support of the Iraq War.


> This is China. Search results are censored and people are fully aware of that.

Having Google censor results could create the false impression that search results are censored similarly in the US as well.


...false...

Maybe we can trust Google not to hide stuff from us, but how come the following bullshit is all over Youtube?

"teleSUR is funded in whole or in part by the Latin American government" [0]

First of all, that warning doesn't even make sense. "The Latin American government"? Who's the president in that government? Maybe they have a king? Is that government less reliable than the USA government? Do they fight as many wars? Does the USA government fund any part of any media sources?

More importantly, now that this sort of pathetic annotation has started, wouldn't we expect it to increase? If Alphabet require a complete accounting of all income sources for all video posters, they'll be able to annotate more comprehensively, and then charge on a sliding scale to hide those annotations. Can actual censorship be far behind?

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmSRWXCosxc


>> Having Google censor results could create the false impression that search results are censored similarly in the US as well.

> ...false...

> Maybe we can trust Google not to hide stuff from us, but how come the following bullshit is all over Youtube?

You're going off into the weeds and talking about an entirely different issue.

Google search results in the US are not censored similarly to China's: you can search for Tiananmen Square or Kent State and get accurate results. The kind of thing we're talking about is a scenario where those queries return nothing, or only garbage the supports the party line. The false impression is the one created when a Chinese person cross-checks Baidu against a hypothetical Google.cn and sees no difference in censorship, and makes the error that Google.cn reflects the behavior of Google.com.

We're not talking about poor labeling around who funded what (which is not censorship at all, by the way).


A third option would be to find technical means to actively undermine and circumvent the Great Firewall of China.


Do you mind if someone else undermines the filtering of "hate" content from US sites?


As someone from the US, no. Free speech is much more important to me than people not having to see offensive things.


> it will just leave the door open for new Chinese tech giants.

Baidu already exists.


I think the thought is that Google is part of American “soft power” and staying out means that soft power influence/projection effectively is neutralized.


Realpolitik: "A system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations." -- Oxford English Dictionary

You are right it's called Realpolitik.

You are advocating for amoral action, simply for profit, regardless of ethical considerations.

Your consistent promotion of this is repugnant, and raises the question of whether you are shilling for the CCP, are clueless about actual international affairs, or are simply amoral yourself.


As I see it the choice is to either do what Google is doing

It's more than just a situation of, "Someone else will do it eventually, so I might as well" and then as you put it, make a few bucks along the way and stay relevant and so forth. The difference here is that Google is offering elite levels of brainpower/research and resources. Not everyone can do that.

And I think you meant realpolitik, the concept of viewing the world in terms of true/material interests.


Careful; China has been ramping up the brain drain. Google & the USA do not have a monopoly on brain power. Besides, how is Google offering China anything it doesn't have? From my perspective, operating in China is merely defending forced losses, such as companies that use Google cloud and want to operate in China.


Whether or not a company / person actually has values is completely different from what they say about having values.

If you truly have values, then your actions are aligned with, consistent with, and demonstrate your stated values.

It’s easy to talk about having values. Usually the pretense is dropped when the chance to advance self interest like money comes up.


> Usually the pretense is dropped when the chance to advance self interest like money comes up

When money is also the means to survival, it warrants a little more nuance than to wholly dismiss someone compromising in some way in order to live to fight another day.

From my perspective, most people who "stand up for whats right" have enough money to do so.


> From my perspective, most people who "stand up for whats right" have enough money to do so.

Those with significant assets may be _less_ inclined to upset the current order; war resisters, peace activists, and protesters of all stripes are often not from the moneyed classes.


Right, they often have very little or nothing. Which puts them in the other category of people who will stand up: those who have nothing to lose.


Google would survive without China.


In what sense does a Google employee need their job to “survive”?


Values can be an excuse though. I know a guy who quits his job (or does something to get him fired) about every 9 - 18 months, and his reasons are always along the lines of "my boss was liar, and I can't compromise my values" when really I think he's some combination of lazy and/or afraid to assume any real responsibility at work.


In other words, "Putting your money where your mouth is."

Even though I don't necessarily agree with him, I see where he's coming from and I commend that he's actually willing to put his money where his mouth is on the matter.


Actually I was referring to google.


> company / person

Edit?


Honestly I just don't understand the short-term thinking by the West in general and companies in particular when it comes to China.

It is 100% abundantly clear that the Chinese government has no interest in "surrendering" industries to foreign competitors. If any foreign company gets reasonably successful I guarantee you the Chinese government will do something to hobble it in favour of a local competitor.

So by doing business in China Google is undermining its own values and alienating a not-insignificant number of employees who feel pretty strongly about censorship and human rights to chase a buck that they will never get because the Chinese government will make sure that they don't.

The lure of a market of a billion people is an illusion. The game is very much rigged. I don't necessarily blame China for this either. But perhaps its well past due that the West restrict access to its markets to Chinese companies in some sort of reciprocal fashion.

If the Chinese government wants you to store data in China to do business there then require Chinese companies to store their data in the US to do business there. And so on.

This is the country that starved millions of its own citizens (the Great Leap Forward), annexed Tibet (and now pretends Tibet never existed) and killed thousands of its own citizens in peaceful pro-democracy protests (Tiannemen Square), the last only ~30 years ago. How quickly we forget. And now Xi Jinping (aka "Winnie the Pooh") has abolished term limits and seems set to install himself as dictator for life in the model of Vladimir Putin.

I can't hope for much more than enough people take such a stance to wake up the leadership of these companies but I'm not holding my breath.


Thanks for writing this so well. Without taking a stance on your post, let me also add: It is quite hard to have a fair discussion about this topic, because there is a significant amount of misinformation around.

China Daily (state-sponsored) pushes in the US a lot of pro-China-regime sentiment. (Right now on their web page there's a hagiography of Xi).

Epoch Times (Falun-Gong sponsored) appears to have gone all in for one party in the US, pushing daily misinformation and echoing lines from other countries attacking the West. My best guess at why Epoch Times has so much disinformation is because of feeling close to one group in the US due to christian identity, but I'm not fully sure.

A good article on state-sponsored influence operations, with an emphasis on China, is here: https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/contrasting-chinas-russias...


Also detaining tens to hundreds of thousands of Muslims in "re-education" camps, too. Can't forget that.


I could not agree more, very well said. Also interesting that you mentioned the Great Leap Forward; I've found that very few people today actually know that this happened or just how incredibly high the death toll was. It was one of the greatest human tragedies of the 20th century and nobody even knows it happened!


The Great Leap Forward is known by almost every Chinese, many of whom having family members actually experienced that. That said, having millions of people starved to death has been quite common throughout the history of China. They could be caused by war, by natural disaster, by human, or a combination of multiple factors. Even in 20th century, starving has been commonplace until the economy started to improve after the economic reform in 1978 (a huge accomplishment that is often ignored by western people) It's hard for younger generations of Chinese to even imagine the darker ages.


> Even in 20th century, starving has been commonplace until the economy started to improve after the economic reform in 1978 (a huge accomplishment that is often ignored by western people) It's hard for younger generations of Chinese to even imagine the darker ages.

What was the huge accomplishment of the 1978 reforms that Western people should recognize? From my vantage point, they were basically the abandonment of a lot of Maoist ideas in favor of something that was more in line with Western economic thought.


> they were basically the abandonment of a lot of Maoist ideas in favor of something that was more in line with Western economic thought

That’s right. The government basically concluded communism isn’t going to happen any time soon and shifted focus back towards gradual economic growth, and chaned lots of policies like opening more and more markets to private companies, letting state owned companies run in the same way as private companies, etc. (Before then, everything was owned and ran by the government). 1978 was just the beginning of the series of economic reforms

What’s different from many western economies though, is that government is investing and driving a lot of these changes.


Not the reforms themselves, but what followed. China's growth since then has led to the largest poverty reduction the world has ever seen, and that didn't happen because a bureaucrat flicked his pen, but because hundreds of millions of Chinese toiled for generations to make it happen.


> Not the reforms themselves, but what followed. China's growth since then has led to the largest poverty reduction the world has ever seen,

So the content of the reforms themselves weren't really an accomplishment, but rather activity of the people that the previous policies had restrained?

> and that didn't happen because a bureaucrat flicked his pen, but because hundreds of millions of Chinese toiled for generations to make it happen.

To make what happen? Deng's reforms? Poverty reduction? The path was so circuitous and so driven by the ideology and policy of leaders that I'm not sure if much can really be said about the political intent of that toil by such a large group over such a long span of time.


It seems that government schools are not that eager to teach about how governments killed 150+ million of their own citizens in 20th century. Maybe it’s to promote the idea that the fear of the tyrannical government is somehow irrational mere 18 years later.


My extremely run of the mill US suburban high school taught us about the Great Leap Forward in its regular world history curriculum.


Parent said "of their own citizens", referring to Chinese schools.


Really is that not common knowledge? (I'm from the US)


I think it is.


> So by doing business in China Google is undermining its own values and alienating a not-insignificant number of employees who feel pretty strongly about censorship and human rights to chase a buck that they will never get because the Chinese government will make sure that they don't.

By this point, your argument makes no sense as Google violates every internet user privacy world-wide (a lot less in China).


Violating someones privacy and actual censorship, while both terrible, are in completely different categories. Censorship is far worse and is almost always a precursor to violence against those being censored.


Nope, it is not. Violating my privacy, they show to me "only the content they think I'm gonna like". And then, they show to me the content they/their sponsor like, allowing the biggest censorship machine of all history to work.


You left out organ theft of political/cultural prisoners:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_harvesting_from_Falun_Go...


What a bunch of pure horse shit!!

Many many US companies make billions, with a capital B serving in China. Apple, for instance, made $9+B in 2017 from China.

If anything, ignoring the Chinese market is detrimental to the US economy, as one can argue exports to China create many many jobs in the US


Completely agree. I understand the intent and sentiment of the OP, however in my mind abandoning and further isolating ourselves from China, will not be ineffective. I just don’t see the whole world lining up and agreeing to do this. This would also negatively affect the United States. Even if it did succeed in limiting China’s growth, it would be at the cost of billions of innocent Chinese people who just want to live better. The government would probably just control the story and China would become more isolated and I doubt a New Democratic government would just open up in its place.

I think the only way this is going to work is to continue investing in China. Play their game, call them out on foul play and punish China on a case-by-case basis. As the Chinese population becomes even more united, rich, educated, we have to hope that China naturally evolves towards a more open form of government and economy. It’s already making massive progress compared to where it was before.

In recap, this will be a long process of challenge and play. Any extreme action such as further or completely isolating China is not only extremely unlikely to even be possible, but also unproductive.


> This would also negatively affect the United States.

How much money are our values worth? If we're willing to prostrate ourselves in front of dictators and tyrants who twist the rules of the game and compromise our values, let's at least put a number on it.

If, on the other hands, we're willing to do business with every butcher and murderer out there, let's stop pretending otherwise and stop referring to "our values" in every corporate meeting. They clearly don't exist.


Adding to the list of reasons not to do business in China: protectionism, cronyism, poor IP enforcement, restrictions on foreign media and communication companies, forced technology transfer from foreign firms as a condition of doing business in China, threats to forcibly annex a peaceful neighboring democracy, seizure of territory in the South China Sea and refusal to abide by the findings of an international legal tribunal, mass imprisonment of Uighur men, imprisonment of citizens advocating for human rights and political freedoms, creation of "Black Mirror"-like social monitoring systems ....

However, I do not think creating reciprocal restrictions on Chinese firms doing business in the West is helpful. Chinese companies with operations or staff in other countries will, over time, bring back values and practices that in the future may support the growth of rights in China while eroding the power of the Xi dictatorship.


Sadly, the US does similar things. The current administration is particularly evil, yet why didn't Google employees resign en masse when Snowden came forward with the revelations?


Ha, likely there's a similarly sinister list of reasons not to do business with the United States. A quick glance at US foreign policy should suffice, or even just the actions resulting from Kissinger's direction.


I suppose the reason is related to the cliche "companies just do whatever they can to maximize shareholder value"; it is instead that they don't actually act to maximize shareholder value, they act to maximize future expected shareholder value. I'd imagine that the guys leading the Google push into China are well aware of how things will go, and they've likely even reported it to the top brass. But shareholders probably aren't as well-informed, so they'll happily bid up the price on GOOG on the back of stories about an imminent takeover of the Chinese search market... which has roughly the same financial impact of actually achieving something, at least temporarily.


I would spin this a little differently. There certainly are a lot of ambitious people at Google. Googlers have a lot of stock options and/or RSU's and care when it goes up. There was also Eric Schmidt's slogan, something about more revenue solving nearly all problems.

But, the company was founded by idealists and is immune from takeover. It attracts idealists (or at least, it used to). Everything is justified in terms of helping users somehow. Justifying things in terms of getting a short-term stock boost generally isn't done, at least not where ordinary employees can hear about it.


This is just ahistorical politics and jingoism under pretense of some greater cause. When China was making its great leap forward entire groups of minorities were segregated in the US and were fighting for their basic rights and continue to face discrimination.

If you have a problem with surveillance you should have an even bigger problem with 'democracies' neck deep in surveillance and arbitrary 'secret courts', 'secret orders' and 'secret processes'. Yet there is near zero mainstream dissent and protest and Assange and Snowden continue to be stranded, surely if people care so much about human rights there would be much more robust activism and genuine efforts to get these individuals back, roll back surveillance and hold people accountable?

If you want to talk about human rights you better have an explanation for the devastation of entire countries and millions of lives in the middle east starting from Iraq to Libya to Syria on entirely made up premises. And the incessant meddling in South America and other regions of the world. China has nothing compared to the scale of destruction and human misery caused in just these two regions.

No country has its hands clean. What is the problem with China developing under their own system? Democracy did not magically form here and in Europe, it took hundreds of years of struggle and its naive to think China and others will make this transition in decades. They are not threatening anyone, at this very moment the US is threatening Iran and meddling with coup plotters in Venezuela, actions that could potentially led to the loss of millions of lives, destabilize these countries and devastate entire regions. This kind of brazen hypocrisy cannot stand in informed discussion.


No. I too once thought that NSA and other Western intelligence agencies were doing things we should avoid. But then I learned the difference between democratic and autocratic regimes' use of data collection. In a word: rule of law. There are teams of judges that review surveillance applications. There are strong rules and laws to prevent misuse of data - NSA employees have been disciplined for violating the rules and reading data they are not supposed to. And in the West we vote for the leadership that supervises this effort - and the leadership changes. (we've had some election problems, yes - in part due to autocrats intervening in the West lately, but democracies are working to improve) It's not about people, it's about laws.

Autocratic countries don't have the same controls.

Also, in the influence campaigns autocracies have been running in the West, there's a ton of effort put into whataboutism - 'democracies do it too'. Be careful.


Both is probably true, the NSA/gov overreach is bad, but the NSA/US has a significantly better civil oversight of intelligence services.


An oversight that rubber stamps 99% of surveillance requests from the NSA and allows it to use information sharing agreements with its allies to skirt around rules preventing surveillance of its own citizens.

That is not oversight to me.


That is a false talking point. The approval rate of FISA warrants does not reflect the strength of oversight. Be careful. There is a lot of disinformation out there designed to discredit democracies.

Discussion of why this is false: https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/is-the-foreign-inte...

The win rate is misleading for a simple reason: The requests the FISC receives are not a random or representative sample of all cases in which the executive branch believes it would benefit from a warrant. The number and type of government requests are responsive to the level of oversight the court exercises—just as a plaintiff’s decision to litigate is responsive to changes in the law. Because it is costly to make an ex parte application (in time, resources, and reputation) and because the executive has long-running knowledge of how the FISC treats applications, there is little reason to expect agencies to submit losing requests. And while the rarity of ex parte proceedings might make this outcome seem unprecedented or extraordinary, other ex parte proceedings—like those for Title III wiretaps and delayed-notice warrants—display equally lopsided results: the government “wins” almost 100% of the time.


> This is just ahistorical politics and jingoism under pretense of some greater cause. When China was making its great leap forward entire groups of minorities were segregated in the US and were fighting for their basic rights and continue to face discrimination.

The United States learned its lesson to an extent, and our voters and leaders grappled with a moral question of how to live harmoniously in our difference. We certainly haven't solved that problem, but we have made progress, and we are trying. This is FAR better than China. China does not care whether they are evil, and feel no shame for oppressing their minorities. The very fact that in the west we have these discussions, and Chinese do not, is an indicator of the robustness of our culture.

China is actually stepping up their apartheid, using the latest technology we sold them to treat their minorities like livestock, forcing them to endure dehumanizing treatment in their own homeland.

Your post is filled with exaggeration and lies.

Yes, western countries make terrible mistakes, but then our citizens have protests and vote our leaders out. China does not.


LOL, kill thousands of its own citizens in protests? The Chinese government never did that (even the famous tank man was unharmed and was not arrested), the truth is, many soldiers got killed because they were not allowed to fire at citizens. Even the Chinese government did kill its own citizen they learnt from the US (1932 Bonus Army, 1970 Kent state massacre, Jesus that was only 48 years ago, not mentioning almost every day someone is being shot by the police somewhere in the US. The funny thing is one shot won't even make it to the newspaper now.)

In a word, you have been brainwashed by your media. I know it's hard to wake up someone who pretends to be asleep, but it's good for you.


[flagged]


You broke the site guidelines badly here, regardless of who's right about historical events. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do this again.


Can you please explain? Because I've reviewed those rules and I don't understand where I fell on the wrong side of them.

Should I not call Chinese propagandists as I see them?


Insinuating astroturfing or shillage without evidence is explicitly against the guidelines, so no you should definitely not do that. Please hold the snark, as well.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Labeling someone a "propagandist" just because they have an opposing view to yours is abusive—and one of the most poisonous tropes on the internet. Doing that because someone articulated a Chinese view in non-native English adds a nasty xenophobic twist. We're here to listen respectfully to each other, not attack others when they differ—even when you know they're obviously wrong, or believe you do.

I've written a ton about this on HN—e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16928460, and lots more at https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturfing&amp;sor....


Eh, I give up.

I disagree with you wholly and completely.

Tired of seeing people on the internet defend obvious propaganda


If you have evidence that someone is astroturfing, please email us with it (hn@ycombinator.com) so we can investigate. When we do find it, we act pretty severely.

If you don't have evidence, though, please stick to the guidelines and refrain from slinging accusations. Someone having an opposite view to yours does not count as evidence.


Well stated. I think it is worthwhile to ask the question,

"What does it mean when Google is willing to risk so much for additional ad clicks?"

A standard dramatic plot device is a character in situation who is acting out of character to the other members of the cast and confusing them; the audience though is let in on the secret that the character has some extenuating circumstance, a relative held hostage or a threat to lives or something, which is very important. So important in fact that our character is willing to put their values on hold until that problem is resolved.

It is relatable because it happens in a variety of ways, some minor and some major in "real life" to people. Thus the writer can tap into that experience and pull out some of the emotions of fear and anger at being trapped.

This was the analysis I shared on another list about Google going into China:

I see Google as a company that has terminal cancer but is putting on a good face while it searches for a cure. The cancer is that search advertising, the only thing that makes any money inside of Google at the margins they need to maintain their lavish environment, is dying. The symptoms that are out there for all to see; their CPC numbers (the cost per click is the money they get from advertisers for a click) has been going down for nearly a decade now, their search 'quality' (the reason that people would pick their search results over a competitor like Bing) has remained stagnant while Bing's have improved, and the amount of money they pay out per quarter for search traffic from other sources (phones, web browsers, etc) has skyrocketed. Advertising only works if you have eyeballs on your ads. Google has been adding more and more ads to their own sites, reducing the amount the pay out to partner sites, and paying more and more money to third parties to send their search traffic to Google rather than Bing. For me, I see these as signs of a dying ecosystem.

If you can accept that my view of what is going on at Google is 'true', the Chinese search engine makes total sense. There are more eyeballs in a strong economy in China than anywhere else in the world. It is the one place where Google doesn't currently play, and even if their margins on Chinese searches were half that of the rest of the world, it would be additional air in the pipeline while they continue to fight for a new business that can supply the margins they need to avoid losing their staff.

Do they know their employees would hate it? Of course they did and they tried to keep it secret. How desperate do they need to be to risk all of that? Very desperate.

If on the other hand, you believe the party line (which is the view that folks I know who are still at Google will share with you) then Google has never been stronger, and is crushing it on all fronts. Everyone wants to be "Google" and all the cool kids are there. There is no cancer here, no existential risk to the company, and no reason to worry.

The problem then is this, if you've convinced people that the company line is "true" then their argument that they are going into China with a search index that caters to the Chinese governments authoritarian whims is antithetical to everything you stand for.

That puts Google management in something of a bind, either explanation is bad. Either the company is dying and in fear for its life so its compromising its principles to extend its runway, or the company is evil and at the height of its power it is selling services in an authoritarian regime and supporting the goals of that regime for filthy lucre.

There might be a third explanation that fits all the facts but I haven't figured that one out yet.


This is a potentially deep topic and something I could say a lot about (speaking as a 6+ year Xoogler) but I’ll avoid going not the weeds.

I see where you’re going but don’t entirely agree.

For one I think extracting every dollar is true but my theory is that comes from Ruth not Sundar. I mean Ruth would’ve been brought in for that purpose but that goes up to the board and Larry.

I also see where you’re going with the terminal cancer part but again I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say that Google is in a similar position to Microsoft after the antitrust case: it was directionless. It doesn’t know what it stands for or what it’s mission is anymore. Everything is a search for purpose. And this is really a failure in leadership.

This lack of leadership is what allowed the incredibly tone deaf military AI program to happen.

I also don’t think google search has stood still or is in danger from Bing.


The most recent version of my essay/overview mentions Ruth Porat. This is one of the reasons why the current debt-based economy is horrible.


I agree. In discussions with current and former Googlers, I've come to the conclusion that Sundar's directive is to extract as much revenue as possible out of ads in order to maximize the runway for the things they actually care about, including the "Other Bets" that are currently losing lots of money. If that means sacrificing Google's long-term goodwill that's fine, because 20 years from now Google isn't expected to exist in its current form.

If on the other hand, you believe the party line (which is the view that folks I know who are still at Google will share with you) then Google has never been stronger, and is crushing it on all fronts.

Apparently we know different folks :p


If I told you pay x$ and you get a chance to flip a 1,000,000 sided coin which pays out 10,000,000,000,000*x you would probably think about buying that chance.


That's a super, super weird formulation here. First from the abstract standpoint, the math here is not right. Discussion: https://pastebin.com/qqQ3KGS5 because I don't want to divert from the more important point.

More importantly, you've failed to account for the externalities, entirely. It's not just a bet ("pay for a chance"). Trying the bet--in this case, allowing government censorship to control search results--has complicated to quantify, but significantly negative human rights cost.

So to summarize: I wouldn't think twice about taking your bet--I absolutely would, because the chances are absurdly in my favor (see the pastebin). But I--and generally, the people protesting this--would decline a bet that actually has the right stakes, even if there is a payout.


I doubt the externalities or the low likelihood of getting a fair shot at selling to Chinese consumers is lost on these companies. The point I’m trying to make is that from a business perspective it’s worth a shot. If successful PR can take care of the blowback.

It’s a moonshot. Despite that, in the eyes of people who are just trying their best to boost profits wherever and however they can it’s stupid not to attempt it.

Also for my game, you got one shot at playing. My formulation was not meant to be so rigorous— just trying to highlight the angle that the decision makers are taking here.


Sounds like you're describing a lottery


> The lure of a market of a billion people is an illusion. The game is very much rigged.

They know they won't be allowed first place, but they're willing to compromise themselves for a second place finish.

We really need to start incentivizing executives to pursue more than just raw numbers.


It's also the country that lifted 3-500 million people out of poverty in the last 30 years. And haven't invaded anybody in the last 60-70.

Just to provide a little balance. I'm worried about Xi's direction too, but overall we could do a lot worse as far as major powers to share the globe with.

You're 100% right about the market protectionism stuff, though.

(sidenote, the implication that Great Leap Forward was intentional is a little disrespectful, IMO -- that's not how it happened).


And haven't invaded anybody in the last 60-70

Except Tibet (https://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/chinese-invad...), Vietnam (https://thediplomat.com/2017/02/the-bitter-legacy-of-the-197...), India (https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs...), islands in the South China Sea claimed by other countries (https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2018/08/27/neighbor...), and unsuccessful attempts to seize islands controlled by Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Taiwan_Strait_Crisis).


I forgot about the Vietnam thing. My bad, 40.

Still a very peaceful record compared to ourselves over the time period.

Why's everybody so invested up and loaded for bear with factoids about how China is so bad?

Have we terminally entered the Thucydides trap?


"The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to fight them in Italy... They never went by that saying which you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things. They trusted rather their own character and prudence — knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad."

~ Machiavelli

YMMV


There are ways to avoid the Thucydides trap, but they don't involve clapping your hands over your ears and pretending everything is fine when it is not. No matter what they like to claim, China is an aggressive expansionist power, and simply ignoring that reality is not going to accomplish anything.


I'm with you, except for that 'aggressive expansionist power' thing.

I'm seeing one 27-day long aggressive war in 1979, previous ones are 1960s or before? And some current day peaceful-yet-obnoxious saber rattling about the South China Sea? (completely oppose them on that BTW).

That's... really not 'aggressive expansionist power', as far as these things go. France, for example, has been in more war over the last 30 or 60 years. Britain MUCH more war. US and Russia? Don't get me started. China is by far the least warlike Security Council member, and it's quantifiable.

I'm all about spreading enlightenment values. Let's try not to look like total hypocritical a-holes and maybe we'll be successful.


Sports team politics.

They bad. We good. Even when facts suggest you're both different shades of bad.


Tibet was theirs for century though. And it, plus all the rest, are neighbours they have disputes with.

Not random countries 10000 of miles away they felt like bossing around...


So it's cool to invade countries next door if you have a dispute with them. But not okay if they're not your neighbors. What if they're technically not your neighbors, but still only like 100 kilometers away? Is that okay?


>So it's cool to invade countries next door if you have a dispute with them.

Straw-man much? It's not cool (and I didn't say that), but it's understandable. Neighbors have disputes, and that has been the case since forever, and it's understandable because they have common borders to settle (which are not god given), shared history, and so on.

Countries meddling with countries in the other end of the world just have imperialism and "national interests" to cheap oil and enforcing their preferred policies and ideology.

>What if they're technically not your neighbors, but still only like 100 kilometers away? Is that okay?

What if we stop asking silly questions and apply the principle of charity and/or common sense?

And yes, with nearby countries it's still natural to have disputes over e.g. this or that natural resource you both claim, this or that past war or whatever.

Now, France with Vietnam, the UK in Cyprus, or the US in Korea, not so much.


I'm sorry, I was trying to better understand your argument which seemed to be focused on geographic distance as a form of whether it was acceptable or not to have armed conflict.


Moving the goalpost?


No, establishing where it should have been naturally.

A country with shared borders and centuries of shared history with a nearby country is quite understandable to have disputes and even go to war with them.

With a country that had never interacted with it, and they have absolutely no reason being there (except entitlement and greed), not so much.

That's only controversial if one has blinders...


Exactly, but that doesn't go well with the murrican narrative, so you're being down voted.


> And haven't invaded anybody in the last 60-70.

China is threatening Taiwan with war.


And by China's definition, that's just a civil war if it happens


And by the definition of one of the two major Taiwanese political parties as well. From Wikipedia:

"The Kuomintang holds the "One China Principle" and maintains its claim that under the ROC Constitution (passed by the Kuomintang government in 1947 in Nanjing) the ROC has sovereignty over most of China (including by their interpretation both mainland China and Taiwan)...Former ROC President Ma Ying-jeou had re-asserted claims on mainland China as late as October 8, 2008."


"claims on mainland in 2008"? Do you have a source or link for that? It's not here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Ying-jeou#View_on_independe...


"Ma said under the ROC Constitution, the ROC “definitely is an independent sovereign state, and mainland [sic] China is also part of the territory of the ROC.”

The interview was published yesterday.

Ma said despite the stipulation of the ROC Constitution, Taiwan cannot recognize the existence of another country, nor does China want to recognize Taiwan. In other words, under the ROC Constitution, “mainland China” is not a country."

from http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2008/10/08/2...

via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-China_policy


Ma Ying Jeou and the KMT have some persuasive arguments; there was an interview on YouTube where he eloquently explained why these claims exist; the mainland Chinese Communist party came to power without being elected by the people. Also, when Japan signed its surrender papers giving up its claims to annexed territories, the sovereignty reverted to the KMT government.


I mean, the KMT of that era would have had even less of a claim of being the legitimate representatives of the people for any reasonable definition of "the people".


That's some nice revisionist history. I guess the whole "let's take over Islands in the South China Sea, and then convert them into military bases" doesn't count? Why is it that Taiwan spends billions of dollars on US weapons? Why is Japan increasing their military forces? Are they afraid of Godzilla?

China is trying to become a super power, as every great nation does. I've yet to see a nation do so peacefully. Just because they haven't yet launched a truly massive "peace keeping" mission.. well, I think it's a bit naive to believe they won't. History is a very useful tool, but you can't solely rely on an actor's past actions to predict the future.

(Also, I won't be replying to any whataboutisms.)


It's just history. It's not revisionist.

I'm really impressed by the box you just built, though:

1) China isn't perfect

2) I won't tolerate comparisons to other world powers, that's whataboutism

3) Therefore, China is black-and-white evil.


You forgot the prison camps -- https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/22/chinas-mass-internment-...

Around 1 million Uighurs have disappeared without trial.

So much for "never again" after WWII... as long as our iPhone's are cheap, people seem happy to look the other way.


> The lure of a market of a billion people is an illusion.

It's not an illusion. Go ask the hollywood studios. Go ask Apple. Go ask GM. Do you really believe those well paid business folks in hollywood, apple, GM, etc are banking on illusions?

> So by doing business in China Google is undermining its own values

Google never had any values. The only people who believe that are the naive who fell for their marketing campaign. Google is a company out to make money for its shareholders. They are fundamentally no different from exxon or disney.

> This is the country that starved millions of its own citizens (the Great Leap Forward), annexed Tibet (and now pretends Tibet never existed) and killed thousands of its own citizens in peaceful pro-democracy protests (Tiannemen Square), the last only ~30 years ago. How quickly we forget. And now Xi Jinping (aka "Winnie the Pooh") has abolished term limits and seems set to install himself as dictator for life in the model of Vladimir Putin.

What does this have to do with business? Why is it that whenever china is mentioned, the top comments invariably have political agenda behind it? Why don't you mention that china lifted 800 million people out of poverty? Does that not fit your agenda?

Regardless, the one thing I agree with you is china is not going to "surrender their industries to foreign competitors." Just like we wouldn't surrender our industry to china. That is common sense. What is happening is that china is giving portions of their market to foreign companies in exchange for what they want.

An example of this obviously tech transfer. Or china setting aside X number of hollywood movies to show in their huge movie market. Of course hollywood is going to give something for a portion of china's movie market share.

The idea that china's market is an illusion is verifiably false. Listen in on tim cook's quarterly conference call sometime.

Or take a look at box office numbers. US companies are making serious money in china.

https://www.scmp.com/culture/film-tv/article/2140381/china-w...

>I can't hope for much more than enough people take such a stance to wake up the leadership of these companies but I'm not holding my breath.

Wake up? Do you really think you know anything that the CEOs of apple, google, etc doesn't know? What hubris.


You're really trying to drive your point with Hollywood taking its profits in China. Do you know what kind of hoops they have to jump through to access that market?

Take Gravity for instance. The reckless nation that shoots down the satellite causing all the damage is Russia when it was China in real life.

China then saved our heroine when its the Russians we've worked and continued to work with. Why? It's because they're chasing the Yuan while giving away soft power to China.


> Do you know what kind of hoops they have to jump through to access that market?

Yes. I thought my comment made that pretty clear. But is hollywood entitled to the chinese market? You act like the chinese owe us their market like we own them.

>Take Gravity for instance. The reckless nation that shoots down the satellite causing all the damage is Russia when it was China in real life.

I know. That's why I wrote "Or china setting aside X number of hollywood movies to show in their huge movie market. Of course hollywood is going to give something for a portion of china's movie market share."

Well, it's called the chinese market for a reason. It belongs to china. Their house, their rules. Why would china give their markets to foreigners without anything in return? Do you think we open our markets without anything in return? Do you think europe does? Or russia? Every nation or bloc protects their markets and demands something in return for access. Maybe the chinese go overboard with it, but as I said, it's their market. They can do whatever they want.


How do you think China's technology and education improved so drastically just a few decades after the cultural revolution?

It was the US giving its technology, military weaponry, college education, etc. to Chinese nationals. Their entry into the World Bank was supposed to come with freer markets and other reforms. Instead they run over peaceful protestors with tanks and seize all cameras from international reporters.

China doesn't respect our patents and conduct corporate espionage at the state level. They brazenly hack our corporations and governments. They don't allow our companies to compete fairly as theirs are propped up by the state.

They can't have their cake and eat it too and I believe its time for Western powers to come down hard on China and its unfair market practices.


> How do you think China's technology and education improved so drastically just a few decades after the cultural revolution?

Because the chinese leadership decided to make it a priority?

> It was the US giving its technology, military weaponry, college education, etc. to Chinese nationals.

Oh we did? Out of the kindess of our hearts? I thought we "gave" them technology, military weaponry, college education, etc in exchange for something? What was that? Oh yeah that's right, their gigantic cheap labor force. Using your logic, china gave us the tech industry and the modern world.

> Their entry into the World Bank was supposed to come with freer markets and other reforms.

You mean the WTO. Right? You clearly have no idea what you are talking about if you don't know the difference between WTO and World Bank.

> China doesn't respect our patents and conduct corporate espionage at the state level.

Oh dear. You mean china does what is in china's interests? Do you know who doesn't respect our patents and conducts espionage? Canada, Mexico and every ally of ours.

> Instead they run over peaceful protestors with tanks and seize all cameras from international reporters.

Wow? They have a version of kent state too? And seizing cameras from foreigners? Do they owe international reporters anything? Once again, you are pretending we own china. Like I said, their house, their rules.

> They don't allow our companies to compete fairly as theirs are propped up by the state.

Like everyone else? You do realize that we accuse the EU of unfairly proppping up Airbus right? And they accuse us of propping up Boeing? There are even accusations between us and canada over their subsidizing of bombardier.

> They can't have their cake and eat it too and I believe its time for Western powers to come down hard on China and its unfair market practices.

Who are you? You believe? Yes, "western powers" are going to listen to you. We are going to base our geopolitical decisions on someone who confuses the world bank with the WTO.

If we felt that china's trade practices were unfair, we could always not trade with them? But I wonder why so many companies and industries are desperate to do business with and in china? Perhaps their business practices aren't so unfair? I don't know.

Or maybe the CEOs of trillion dollar companies like apple aren't as smart as you.


I was actually referring to the World Bank [0] but feel free to attack me personally.

I wasn't initially sure why you shifted to ad hominem all of a sudden but I see that you're on a throwaway for a reason. You don't have a base belief, you are simply shouting a tautology that things are happening because things are happening. It doesn't take a genius geopolitical expert to see that China is doing things because it's in China's best interest.

If you can't see that China has a unfair advantage in the global market and that their regime is a threat to our democratic system, then there's no point arguing. If you feel that their political system is superior to ours, I pray that you're not an ethnic minority.

China entices all business and western powers with "look, we're shifting towards free(er) markets but our big monolithic government is just slow at enacting changes" while ensuring that they fail.

[0] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1067056070119447...


Chinese government is unelected and does bad things, that is true. The current US administration is also bad — separating families seeking asylum, being the only country in the world to leave the Paris climate agreement etc.


> But is hollywood entitled to the chinese market?

No, it isn't, but in my opinion Chinese people (not their government) should have the right to decide who to accept in their market or not. Currently, they do not.


"The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them" - V.I. Lenin

(Yes, I know the quote is apocryphal. But the reason why it's so popular, is because the sentiment is so close to the observed reality.)


When you present it that way, it sounds absolutely reasonable. But this is almost exactly what Trump says in his speeches. He doesn't hate China, he understands why they are doing what they're doing. But now it is time for us to stand up for ourselves economically, and look out for our own best interests. Think what you will about him, but on international trade he is not treated fairly. When Trump does to China 10% of what they do to us, he is portrayed as some sort of lunatic.


I would take issue with your classification of companies as "the west" Companies like Google have a huge foreign national presence. There are thousands of Chinese employees, managers, and executives at Google.


>This is the country that starved millions of its own citizens (the Great Leap Forward), annexed Tibet (and now pretends Tibet never existed) and killed thousands of its own citizens in peaceful pro-democracy protests (Tiannemen Square), the last only ~30 years ago.

Well, glass houses and stones and all that. There's a country that eliminated millions of its native citizens and restricted the little left to reservations, abducted and kept in slavery millions of black citizens for nearly four centuries, stole several huge areas from its southern neighbor, has the largest prison population in the world (25% of the world's prisoners for merely 4% the people in the world), had segregation for blacks until the late 60s, dropped two nuclear bombs (on civilians), has gone at war and/or occupied several countries all around the world that have no borders with it and had done nothing to it, has toppled foreign governments, has widespread surveillance that covers the whole world, meddles with worldwide politics, secret no-due-process prisons, regularly murders people in sovereign countries, they still have the death penalty, while the rest of the western world has abandoned, and their cops routinely kill thousands of people every year (especially black). Heck, they also bombed/invaded 4 different countries just in the last 20 years.

And they're pretending to have the moral high ground, and even point fingers to other countries! And if you point those things out, they go "but whataboutism", to restrict the conversation to some other party, which they present as uniquely bad.


You left out the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, MK-ULTRA, the acquisition of Hawaii, and that time in the 50's when we gassed San Francisco.

I think the US government does have the moral high ground compared to the CCP, even if that ground may not be very high in all places.

In any event, our crimes and sins do not excuse those of others.


Exactly correct. The history of the United States is marred with some horrible events. But that does not change the fact that there is a large faction within the Chinese government that views the US as an enemy and second rate power that must be humbled. The US should recognize this and act accordingly.


I don't dispute that, but I'm not personally concerned about them. We have our own hawks and would-be world-beaters.

I'm also not concerned about China econimically annexing Africa. It's between them, and you can't say the West has been terrific friends to the nations and peoples of that continent, can you?

And I think the renaissance of the Silk Road would be amazing. A massive river of wealth and culture spanning the whole of Eurasia, vibrant and alive again after ages fallow. Merv was considered the most beautiful city in the world for centuries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merv

My issue is with things like the sabre-rattling in the South China Sea, and the attempt to establish a stable society through mass mind-control and thought-policing. To my mind the legitimacy of the Communist government comes solely from the performance of the CCP in maintaining order. I think working toward economic well-being is a fine way to maintain order; but trying to cover up the "June Fourth Incident" is incredibly, wildly foolish.

YC just announced that they are going into China, and all I could think of was, what will you say when they ask you to call it the "June Fourth Incident" instead of "Tienanmen Square Massacre"? You're not naive, you must see that moment in the future, or have some idea to dodge it somehow? Will you kowtow?

To sum up, I like China and Chinese people; I don't like the CCP but only because of personal beliefs and preference; I don't think I'm capable of judging something so huge, that tries to run such a large and old nation. Nevertheless, some of their policies seem to me to be both odious and self-defeating. I'm alarmed that such an important source of world stability as the government of China might be acting foolishly. I mean, if we are going to elect a human cartoon character to our highest office I hope somebody is going to try to act like a grown-up, eh? The last thing the world needs is for the CCP to try to get into a dick-measuring contest with us in the sea, or demand to control the information everyone sees, or round people up into camps. Let's all settle down and make some money, because it's going to be expensive to cope with the weather from here on out, for everybody.


YC going into China just proves that they have no ethics and morals


It is not a competition. The US did all those things (and more). It is bad, in many cases worse than China. But China is also bad and in many other cases did much worse than the US.

In my non-american opinion, tech companies doing business in China are bad for the world. The fact that the US thinks it has the moral high ground doesn’t enter into it (incidentally China also considers itself morally superior).

(Appologise for brevity and potential errors, I am typing this on a phone).


So I'm not sure what particular straw man or false equivalency argument you're trying to make but first let me point out that I'm not American, I'm Australian.

And you're right that there are grave issues (for these and many other countries) but that doesn't excuse the actions of the Chinse government. Nor does it make all such actions equivalent and the presence of such sins doesn't disqualify you from pointing out such abuses.

Let's not forget that in the US I can talk about slavery, segregation, the arguably illegal wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, taking land from Native Americans and a whole host of other issues because such information isn't censored and I'm not going to end up in a labour camp for bringing it up.

Until that's true in China, don't even try the moral equivalence argument.


>So I'm not sure what particular straw man or false equivalency argument you're trying to make but first let me point out that I'm not American, I'm Australian.

Doesn't change much. I'm contrasting the holier than thou western narrative vs China.

>And you're right that there are grave issues (for these and many other countries) but that doesn't excuse the actions of the Chinse government.

No, it just makes hypocrites of those that single it out.

>Nor does it make all such actions equivalent and the presence of such sins doesn't disqualify you from pointing out such abuses.

Sure. I posit that the actions I've described are actually worse.

>Let's not forget that in the US I can talk about slavery, segregation, the arguably illegal wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, taking land from Native Americans and a whole host of other issues because such information isn't censored and I'm not going to end up in a labour camp for bringing it up. Until that's true in China, don't even try the moral equivalence argument.

So, the idea is that it's OK to do bad things, as long as people in your country can openly talk about them?

Especially as this talk is just ignored (people talking and demonstrating about it didn't stop the Vietnam war continuing for 2 decades, or the abolition of slavery taking 4 centuries and a huge civil war).


Thanks for this comment.

It feels surreal to see Americans pretend they have any moral high ground.


Clearly no modern person has the moral high ground on anything when looking through the lens of history. I'm surprised the world hasn't fallen into total anarchy since no one can stand up and say "That's wrong!"


The difference is that we don't lionize the actions of our ancestors. We acknowledge that the wholesale destruction of first peoples was a horrific act of violence, and the US does not cover up the ugly parts of its history. We talk about it openly.


>The difference is that we don't lionize the actions of our ancestors

Huh? It's notorious for doing just that. From the bizarro workship of the founding fathers, to celebrating people like Custer, to the whole Confederacy thing in the South, and so on. All kinds of dark history, from the treatment of Chinese in 19th century, to the mass murders of immigrants and workers fighting for their rights (e.g. at Ludlow) are swept under the rug.

>We acknowledge that the wholesale destruction of first peoples was a horrific act of violence, and the US does not cover up the ugly parts of its history. We talk about it openly.

Only in the sense that people don't go to jail for talking about them. Otherwise, the official histories and accounts all sidestep the ugly parts of history, wash them out in official narratives, and so on, and it takes people like Howard Zinn to make them somewhat known.

Heck, people are still taught the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagashaki where "necessary" and used to "stop the war".


Colombus day is also still celebrated in many parts of the US because why not celebrate one absolutely awful man ?


Some of the ugliest parts is happening now and "you" are not openly talking about it (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Africa, military bases all over Europe, Asia, Latin America, etc).

American government is killing thousands more people yearly then Chinese for a long, long time.


I think that with all the money and power that comes with being a superpower, some bad acts are inevitable. There's just too many tendrils on the beast to control all its machinations.

Still, all things considered, I truly believe that America is relatively good, fair, and just, given the circumstances. Just imagine what the world would be like if positions were reversed, and China or Russia were the unchecked world superpower. I suspect such a reality would make you yearn for the balance we have today.


> Just imagine what the world would be like if positions were reversed, and China or Russia were the unchecked world superpower. I suspect such a reality would make you yearn for the balance we have today.

As a Latino and living in Brazil, I'm hoping for this to happen (and is happening). Brazilian business with Chinese and Russians are a lot more fair to our side than business done with US. And they don't use military force.

Now if I talk as a citizen of the world, I think the US is one of the greatest superpower of all history and brought insurmountable amount of human development (in pair with Egypt). But as a Brazilian, some if not all of our worldly known issues are because or related to the way our economic elite do business with the US.


Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria are all debated vociferously in this country, and though they have taken a back seat to the shitshow of our current presidency, they are absolutely contentious issues in academia, foreign policy circles, and in public. To say that the American people somehow don’t have these discussions is absurd. Furthermore, your implication seems to be that because the US government does things that are morally wrong, Americans who believe in human rights are somehow not credible when they criticize other governments in addition to their own. That is absolutely nonsense.


> Furthermore, your implication seems to be that because the US government does things that are morally wrong, Americans who believe in human rights are somehow not credible when they criticize other governments in addition to their own. That is absolutely nonsense.

No, what I'm saying is that Americans can't point fingers to China and Chinese while America state has a much more tighter grip on the world than China state. If you wanna fix human right problems in the world, you can have a lot more impact doing it at home than abroad.


>* Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria are all debated vociferously in this country,*

"Vociferously" as in "some pundits talk about them but nobody really cares about those things, no politician resigned because of them, no mass demonstrations anywhere, and even when people talk it's the usual hypocrisy show (when it's not just about the costs and the toll on our own soldiers), meanwhile things get on as usual..."

>Americans who believe in human rights are somehow not credible when they criticize other governments in addition to their own. That is absolutely nonsense.

Actually sounds very valid.

Makes sense, to get one's house in order before they can talk about others. In fact that's where they should have more impact (and more moral responsibility to get right).

But it's also the case that such "criticizing other governments" is used by their own government as justification for all kinds of interventions.

It's this "criticizing of other governments" that was used to justify the wars and interventions that made Iraq and Libya from stable if autarchic regimes into today's hell on earth, for example.


1) autarchic and autocratic mean two different things. The word you’re looking for is autocratic.

2) The US is a democracy, is pretty diverse in terms of opinions, and the US government does things that the people don’t like (just like in China). I don’t hold the individuals of China accountable for egregious and unacceptable human rights violations of the Chinese government. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of US society to say that the people of the US are inseparable from their government’s decisions.

3) You still have yet to seriously engage the notion that the Chinese government is perpetrating wholesale oppression of a class of people simply for having a different identity. Whatever the US does doesn’t change how morally reprehensible that is. What-about-ism doesn’t change the moral calculus here one iota.


> You still have yet to seriously engage the notion that the Chinese government is perpetrating wholesale oppression of a class of people simply for having a different identity. Whatever the US does doesn’t change how morally reprehensible that is.

The US systematically does the same to its black portion of the population since always, sometimes in extreme ways, other times in soft ways.


Agreed. And as usual, I look for the greyed-out comments (like yours) to find a balance and objectivity, missing in the bulk of the (mostly hypocritical) thread.


Can you imagine what people would say if European currency had Adolf Hitler's face on it? Can you imagine if the Nazis were still in power in Germany?

Chinese currency has Mao's face on it, and he was a much bigger mass murderer that Hitler. The party he ran is still in power, and still actively violating basic human rights of its citizens.


[flagged]


Tight media bubble? Hmm.

If I made an equivalent comment similar to coldtea's, one detailing a list of China's sins, on Chinese social media... place your bets on whether or not this post would be removed by the government censors. I bet it would, personally. Probably rather quickly.

Some of the "counterpoints" also were strange considering we are talking about China. For instance, China executes more people than anyone else in the world, and even when adjusted at a per capita level China's rate is quite a bit higher than the United States. (https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/04/12/china-st...) And China's internet surveillance is far worse than the United States, probably one of the worst in the world as far as this goes (eg "Great Firewall", large divisions of government devoted to censoring social media, etc.) -- it is more internal focused at this time, granted, but still.

China certainly is meddling in other nations' foreign politics too (just look at the recent politics in Asian countries with the Belt and Road Initiative, with some commentators such as this -- https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/08/28/commentary/w... -- worried about such being a "debt trap" for political purposes). And the worrying militarization of the American police force still compares nothing to what China is doing in Xinjiang (https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/05/31/china-has-turn...).

There certainly are Americans that gloss over our sins and over-promote "American exceptionalism". I don't see that in most of the Hacker News crowd -- I think most Americans on here are plenty aware of our faults and transgressions, and are often rather vocally against our own nation's suppression of dissent and free speech. But China's on another level, a much tighter authoritarian state with much more active spying and suppression. I think it's hard to argue against this.


Have you tried to use Weibo?


But the question at hand is not "Which government is more evil?" (Even though I think the answer is clear even though U.S. government is horrific.) The question was "Is Google reentering China likely to do net good for the world?" China evil is directly relevant to that, U.S. evil only peripherally.

Beyond that, which-tribe-is-better arguments powerfully attract flamewars. They're a fantastic way to deflect the original question. It's a classic pattern, and so we have a word for it, whataboutism.


>But the question at hand is not "Which government is more evil?" (Even though I think the answer is clear even though U.S. government is horrific.) The question was "Is Google reentering China likely to do net good for the world?" China evil is directly relevant to that, U.S. evil only peripherally.

Well, when put in front of a question, it's good to question the question itself.

People, media, governments, etc frame questions all day in a constrained way, either because it serves some interests, or because they can't see the bigger picture, or because they're used to thinking with blinders on.

I'd say that a question like "Is Google reentering China likely to do net good for the world?" much be put into question itself.

Why would it be good or bad? What is China? How is Google's own country better? What Google already does elsewhere? Is that good? Is China the same as "Chinese government"? and so on...


.Where Native Americans citizens when they where killed? A google search tells me they got citizenship in 1924?


So the fact that the US did not consider Native Americans citizens made their killing somewhat justifiable?

It seems to me you’re making a strong case for GPs point about how perceived US moral superiority influences one's arguments. It doesn't matter whether the US (the oppressor!) considered them citizens. It matters that they were people.

Disturbing how in the light of NSA revelations many people here were more concerned that they were spying on americans rather than the fact that they were spying on people.


This response is unhelpful. The evils of the US do not negate the evils of China.


No, but it puts them in perspective.

And I don't want an evil person telling me how horrible another evil person is to further their interests...


For all the talk about "whataboutism" this is a perfect example of it.


> (aka "Winnie the Pooh")

The use of derogatory nicknames detracts from your arguments and is a sign of laziness in an orator.


> Tibet (and now pretends Tibet never existed)

Do you know what Tibet has been like before? It's a bloody brutal slavery society that majority of the population lived in a unbelievably inhumane condition.

Also, Tibet has been a part of Chinese territory for centuries.


Have you visited? Could you tell me more about how you know this?


There're plenty of documentation about this. You just need to get out the media bubble.

Tibet right now is just a fine place to visit.


He asked you for some citations or sources and you reply telling him to get out of his media bubble?

Real helpful, thanks.


> killed thousands of its own citizens in peaceful pro-democracy protests (Tiannemen Square)

I watched hours of documentations about the entire event, but seriously, the government is not the only side to blame. If it happened in the US, the policy probably would have started sending protesters to jail much earlier.


World needs more people like Jack Poulson. We all need to stand up against governments which treat their citizens like the Chinese govenment does.


irrespective of any of that. Respect to the guy for standing on principle and removing himself from a technology project he found ethically inexcusable. I'm also a bit surprised more Googlers haven't followed suit.


I feel Google has become a company you go to work at for the fat paycheck, and no one actually works there because the work is interesting or because they have any belief the company is going to change the world for the better.


> no one actually works there because the work is interesting or because they have any belief the company is going to change the world for the better.

At any company with 50,000+ employees most generalizations will be wrong.

I find my work interesting. I fully admit that I don't have an expectations my job will make the world better even though it may in some small way because I don't believe that's what companies are for.

I work to make a living like most people. I'd like to make the world a better place but I don't tie that to my job since sadly the incentives don't really align. Still I'd consider Google to be pretty good compared to other companies given how much they donate but I guess it's easy to donate when you make a lot of money.


Maybe people like to work on things that have a big impact?


While ignoring whether it's a positive or negative impact?


What are you basing this on?


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -U.Sinclair


Big respect to him for standing up to this values. I'm sure the lure of money has probably kept other employees not leave the company.


You would be surprised how many have already done so, albeit quietly.


nobody can stress enough how fundamentally antithetical china's censorship is to the very concept of the Internet.

that google, who's mission is to make the world's information "universally accessible" would participate in it is a travesty.

i applaud mr paulson for standing up for his virtues and for the human race


Most likely this is a "Senior Research Scientist at Google" rather than a "Senior Google Research Scientist", i.e. "Senior Research Scientist" is his title (the equivalent of Senior Software Engineer on the research ladder) and he works for Google, rather than he is a high-up at the company. He's only 32, has been with the company for 2 years, and his previous job was an assistant professor, all of which are credentials that would be roughly Senior SWE level rather than an executive or department head.


I don't think his age or tenure should affect the message he is sending.


It doesn't change the message he's sending, but it does change how the reader should perceive it. Being at the company longer and in a higher position implies that he has more at stake, and so would require a significant change to be worth leaving. It also would mean he's had longer "indoctrination" into the common Google Culture and that this could be the harbinger of further similar reactions from other long-time Google employees.


It is a much bigger deal if a VP or a CEO resigns over something than if a janitor does, even if they do so for the same reason.


I don't think this makes sense, while the C-level exec may have a lot more to lose measured on an absolute scale, the quality of their life will not change significantly following their resignation. However, the janitor potentially has his or her entire livelihood at stake and will likely struggle to support themselves until they manage to find another job.

For this reason, I think if the lower-level staff at your company are quitting over moral/ethical issues, you probably have much worse problems than if your highly-valued employees are leaving.

However, I'd imagine this particular employee has a lot more in common with the VP than the janitor and I don't imagine he will have any trouble finding new employment following this.


My claim is not about what makes sense. My claim is about actual reality. People in general care more when powerful employees resign. It would be a huge deal if Sundar resigned over this, or Page. It is not a big deal that this rank and file research scientist resigned. I could propose a few hypotheses as to why, but I'm guessing you're capable of coming up with your own.


I don't think it does either, but it does affect the accuracy of the title that this story is submitted under.


Ok, we took the word 'senior' out of the title to avoid confusion and offtopicness.


Being an assistant professor at Stanford is orders more prestigious than whatever title he has at Google.

For example, Dr. Fei-Fei Li is a professor at Stanford and the Chief Scientist at Google. The professorship is orders of magnitude more prestigious than the Google thing.


Depends on which group you hang out with.

Being an assistant professor, or any part of academia, holds little appeal for many people who just want to make money in industry. For that matter, I didn't think working for Google was all that prestigious when I joined - I wanted to be a startup founder, like the guys who founded Flickr or Del.icio.us or ViaWeb, and Google was my consolation prize when that didn't work out. It was a bit of a mindfuck to see all the kids coming out of college and asking "How do I get a job at Google? It's been my dream since like forever!", and a further mindfuck when I met my wife, was like "Yeah, I was in line behind Larry Page at the cafeteria today", and she was like "Who's Larry Page?"

Ultimately convinced me that chasing prestige was pointless, because it turns out everyone has a different definition of it. You would be surprised how much peoples' values differ, or how some people can be completely indifferent to other peoples' heroes. I mean, this person clearly preferred living a life true to his values than whatever prestige comes from working for Google.

Anyway, I mentioned it because in my experience, former assistant profs at top universities were usually slotted into L5 (Senior SWE/Research Scientist/Data Scientist/etc.) at Google, while full profs were usually slotted into L7 (Senior Staff whatever). So there is a rough correspondence in that those are the corresponding levels that the same person who happens to have done both jobs ends up occupying. You could argue about which is more prestigious and you'd be right, by definition, because prestige is in the eye of the beholder.


Getting a professorship at Stanford is way harder than an L5 at Google, hands down, no questions.


Don't care, have no interest in getting a professorship at Stanford.

Getting a spot on Stanford's gymnastics team is way harder than getting a professorship at Stanford. After all, there are 39 spots for the former, and 2219 spots for the latter. The denominators are of roughly the same size, 4.8 million kids who do gymnastics vs. roughly 5M Ph.Ds.

I have no interest in being a Stanford gymnast either (and in any case that ship sailed 20 years ago), but I'm making a point about prestige. The numbers would be even more stark if I'd picked another sport like basketball.


> For example, Dr. Fei-Fei Li is a professor at Stanford and the Chief Scientist at Google. The professorship is orders of magnitude more prestigious than the Google thing.

By what measure? She was the chief scientist of which there is only one but there are many professors at Stanford. She's not just any professor though: she's also the director of the AI lab which you could argue is more prestigious but I don't see why you would consider a "regular" professor title to be more prestigious than a chief scientist who managed a large number of researchers.


Possibly interesting/relevant, Fei-Fei Li is returning to her job at Stanford, primarily, and someone else is taking over as the head of Google Cloud AI: https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/inside-google-cloud/goo...


Which is a proof that his values are truly important to him. More kudos to him.


Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. I don't know what the "research scientist" ladder looks like but "senior" is the median grade of software engineers. Half of SWEs are Senior or higher.


This is the dark side of demanding that tech companies implement feel-good censorship here in the US (removing "hate")...we've opened the door to relative standards and the filtering to back them up.

Sorry but you were all told you would hit this slippery slope...its fine when the SPLC is having tech companies filter out "undesirable" content but now you have PRC turning the same levers. You all demanded this door be opened when you freaked out about "hate"....now it can't be closed.

What will be left of Google and the other techs when everyone has taken their turn filtering out the content that "offends" them?


If I were to take a contrarian view of this, I would ask: "What is the difference between Google censoring search results based on the public security laws of China, versus Google censoring search results based on the copyright laws of the USA and EU?"

Why didn't this researcher resign over the 2nd instance?


Even if you're no fan of copyright, you still have to acknowledge that censoring political speech, created initially by the person posting it, is a vastly more grave ill for human rights than google removing something someone posted that they did not themselves create.


> If I were to take a contrarian view of this, I would ask: "What is the difference between Google censoring search results based on the public security laws of China, versus Google censoring search results based on the copyright laws of the USA and EU?"

> Why didn't this researcher resign over the 2nd instance?

Because they're obviously qualitatively different to a significant degree. Only one is viewpoint-based political censorship.


I'd argue that both are political in nature. They're both cultural ideas (copyright and censorship have no physical manifestation) and cultural ideas are nothing but agreed upon ideas that unite us.

Copyright is a restriction upon sharing in order to prop up content creators, and censorship is a restriction on speech in order to prop up social harmony.

“Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’. Hammurabi would have said the same about his principle of hierarchy, and Thomas Jefferson about human rights. Homo sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas and chimpanzees have no natural rights. But don’t tell that to our servants, lest they murder us at night.” - Sapiens


>> Because they're obviously qualitatively different to a significant degree. Only one is viewpoint-based political censorship.

> I'd argue that both are political in nature. They're both cultural ideas (copyright and censorship have no physical manifestation) and cultural ideas are nothing but agreed upon ideas that unite us.

You're wandering off into the weeds. The key point is that Chinese censorship is viewpoint-based, while copyright is not.

Under a copyright regime, you can express anything as long as you're original and don't do it by duplicating someone's recent work verbatim in ways that aren't fair use. Under a censorship regime, you can't express a censored idea, concept, or fact in any form at all.


There are only weeds if you think about anything long enough. Arguing from an existing moral or cultural framework is like fish debating the nature of water.

For example flipping the argument above: under a censorship regime, you can express anything as long as it doesn't threaten social stability such that the greater good is harmed by your words. Under a copyright regime you can't express a copyrighted idea, concept, or fact in any form at all.

To me the latter "can't express a copyrighted idea at all" seems a bit weak, but so does "can't express a censored idea at all", since in both cases you can express those ideas, you just pay the consequences.

Stepping back my original argument (maybe you consider it too far off into the weeds) is that it's not possible to bootstrap an argument for moral or cultural superiority without appealing to yet another framework like utilitarianism or divine right.


Copyright does not suppress political dissent, neither explicitly nor implicitly.

More broadly speaking, it does not suppress expression of ideas, even ideas expressed in copyrighted work. You could take any copyrighted book, and retell its story in however great detail you want, and that wouldn't be copyright infringement.


> “There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands.”

.,.. And the country to make the most demands for private user data, according to Google's transparency report is ...


.. subject to sample bias, due to including only countries where they operate.

Also, "the most demands" is, at best, misleading. To be meaningful, number of demands would be a numerator, requiring a denominator, such as total number of users, or, better yet, users multiplied by data.


Watch how his quitting impacts Google (especially bottom line) in no way what so ever!

"All in all he's just another brick in the wall"


And he's the one you hear about because of this article. My bet is a lot of folks are quietly leaving Google because the moral compass of the company is just gone.


extended exposure to public investment markets tends to do that over time. As investor power grows over a company, all concerns aside from increasing shareholder value slowly die.

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