The Limits of Abolition

Let’s take Chris Hayes’ views at face value and ask the big question he fails to ask in his Nation piece calling for the abolition of the fossil fuel industry: since the whole foundation for his argument is the existential threat posed by fossil fuels, when China, its allies, and its client states say no to his scheme, are we going to go to war to enforce it? And if we’re not going to go to war, then do we double-down on our production restrictions in order to compensate for Chinese emissions?

To begin with, when Hayes draws the parallels to ending slavery he should acknowledge that one of the drivers for the political war on slavery in the Americas was the literal war on the trans-Atlantic slave trade fought by the British. If the British had not made the global commerce of slavery prohibitively expensive, then it would’ve been much more difficult to achieve the goal of abolition. What the British and the abolitionists achieved was the banishment of slavery from Western world. However, low-level forms of slavery persisted in much of Asia and Africa well into the twentieth century.

Thus, abolition wasn’t actually total; it only seemed that way. However, the use of carbon in countries not agreeing to Hayes’ scheme would be much more significant. One possible retort to this is that the oil market would price China and others out of fossil fuel dependency by raising the price of imported fuel, but that assumes that China will be subject to the same market forces as the West. Based on the current policies of the Chinese government, this rosy scenario cannot come to pass.

Hayes notes that, in the West, sovereign wealth funds may consider divesting from oil companies so as to no longer fund exploration and production. That is within their right. In China, on the other hand, it’s not private industry doing the investing, it’s government entities and state owned enterprise who are steering the captured assets of Chinese depositors–people who have no control over where their money is going. China will not rely on foreign oil companies to do at cost what CNOOC and SINOPEC can do cheaper thanks to almost unlimited money from Chinese banks.

The bottom line is that while we could lock down the carbon wealth of the Canadian tar sands and North Sea, among other places, China would happily assume the mantle of monopsony buyer of oil from Russia and the developing world. Moreover, with Russia and China already willing to make threats of war to obtain energy resources in Crimea and the South China Sea, respectively, are we to believe that they would voluntarily agree to a scheme which would deny the use of their energy resources for the foreseeable future?

The above should not be taken to mean that a do-nothing approach to renewable resources and greener vehicles makes sense. Vehicles like the Tesla Model S are too expensive at the moment, but herald the possibilities of technology. Hopefully, BYD’s new electric bus factories in the US will spur Americans to innovate and compete against Chinese industry. Moreover, a shift away from fossil fuels has obvious benefits in terms of environmental protection and national security. For instance, Western Europe’s dependence on fuels imported from Russia has given Putin a free hand in Ukraine, while the shariazation of Brunei has proceeded with little criticism from Western governments thanks to the Sultanate’s oil wealth. Oil is a shield, and behind every shield is a weapon.

But why haven’t we made more progress internationally? Hayes focuses on the domestic level, telling us a story of the capture of the Republican Party by corporate interests, of Newt Gingrich et al retreating from science towards denialism, yet that doesn’t explain why, at the global level, China, and to a lesser extent India and Brazil, have been able to successfully monkeywrench the work of European leaders and both Democratic and Republican presidents. That doesn’t explain why even Democrats refuse to vote for legislation that would hobble the American economy and give the BRICs free reign.

For their part, the BRICs have long maintained that limits on their energy consumption are unfair so long as they remain developing countries. Consider that China, despite the PPP-based hype, is approximately half the size of the US economy but already uses more energy during production because Chinese industry is more corrupt and less efficient. It’s safe to assume that China will become more energy efficient in the future, but even then, the energy demands of China’s economy will be massive. By 2030, China alone is projected to produce 15 gigatons of carbon emissions per year, which is roughly half of the safe level forecast by climate scientists. And these emissions will come despite the fact that China is the world’s largest investor in renewables. What will happen to the world’s environment by the time China is actually a developed county?

Chris Hayes’ ideas are is well-intentioned, yet ultimately dependent on liberal democratic values to promote public goods. After all, if the people of the world are going to vote to protect the planet, don’t they need to be able to vote first? Unfortunately, according to Hayes’ apocalyptic scenario, an authoritarian China dooms us all. This doesn’t mean we do nothing, just that we acknowledge that Hayes’ argument works best at the partisan level (I’m sure my Democrat-voting friends have read it approvingly) because it is free from the complications of reality. Once we talk about how Hayes’ plan would actually be implemented globally, the abolition of fossil fuels, like Piketty’s global wealth tax–that other hot progressive idea of the moment–sinks under its own utopian weight.

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Google and China: in the Long Term

This is neither a blog post about Google’s motives for changing its mind about China, nor is it a post about the seeming triumph of Baidu in the world’s fastest growing economy, nor is it a post about the Chinese government’s steadfast denials of hacking or its silly propaganda offensive against Google and the US. Those posts have been written already, both by people with greater interest and greater insight than myself. Instead, I would like to explore the long-term ramifications of the Google-China affair, as well as the implications of the U.S. policy response outlined by Secretary of State Clinton.

First, while domestic IT companies will continue to thrive, both the perception and the reality of Google’s situation will have a negative effect on international IT investment in China. When “inside job” memes start spreading alongside a very public insinuation that the Chinese government aided and abetted IP theft on a vast scale, there can be no question that the end result will be a poisoned business environment for IT companies in China. While companies everywhere will always be open to cyberattack, the added danger of physical access to corporate IT infrastructure will lead many companies to rethink placing datacenters and software labs in China. More disturbing is the possibility that IT companies may come to question the loyalty of Chinese staff in an IT world replay of the Wen Ho Lee affair. (To Chinese friends:  you might want to delete that Communist Party membership you wrote about on your resume.)  Factors such as these may lead IT firms to turn to India instead of China as a hub for their low-cost Asian operations, or to Taiwan or South Korea for more expensive, bandwidth-critical investments.

A second development is that Google will harm its reputation by sending mixed messages about future plans in China. The company’s hard stance has won considerable praise from foreign observers used to watching companies muddy the ethical waters when doing business in China. (When Google said no to Zhongnanhai, one could almost hear the gasps of delight in Washington and Silicon Valley!) Thus it comes as no surprise that when Google starts whittling away at the strength of its initial statements, it leaves many of the company’s fans with a sour taste in their mouths. Google’s investors will be left scratching their heads at how Page and Brin — Google’s tech geniuses — could spearhead such a bold position only to have it talked down by Schmidt — Google’s biz guy — in the weeks that followed.  Even worse, for smaller IT companies Google’s actions beg the question, if, in the end, even Google cannot stand up to China, how on earth can we?

Moving on to the Secretary of State’s speech, the main problem with the U.S. approach is that it wants to sidestep the economic issues involved in Chinese censorship and nationalist hacking and wrap everything up in the guise of human rights. Human rights are important, no doubt, but they were not a sufficient cause for Google’s abrupt policy change regarding China nor are human rights behind, say, IP piracy intrusions at Adobe and other IT firms. Moreover, putting human rights front and center is the old familiar anti-Chinese government narrative, a narrative which, while it may please the ears of Western audiences, will ring false to many Chinese citizens who, as Baidu’s Sun Yunfeng notes, care less about political issues and more about “the most routine information in economy, culture and technology fields.”

While the speech was more a statement of principles than a policy outline, there were a few moments in which Clinton’s statements played into Beijing’s hands. Consider the passage where Secretary Clinton announces U.S. government assistance to develop “circumvention tools”:

We are also supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their rights of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship. We are providing funds to groups around the world to make sure that those tools get to the people who need them in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely. The United States has been assisting in these efforts for some time, with a focus on implementing these programs as efficiently and effectively as possible. Both the American people and nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote internet freedom.

We want to put these tools in the hands of people who will use them to advance democracy and human rights, to fight climate change and epidemics, to build global support for President Obama’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons, to encourage sustainable economic development that lifts the people at the bottom up.

As an unstated policy of the United States, this approach would be precisely right — the U.S. should be working to strengthen democratic movements in authoritarian countries. On the other hand, as a stated policy, the United States is giving ammunition to regimes in Beijing (and elsewhere) to label dissidents as pawns of Washington, to stigmatize them as the agents of foreign powers. Although Westerners may find charges such as “information imperialism” laughable, we should not ignore Beijing’s rate of success at making common Chinese distrust any critics deemed to have too many friends in foreign capitals. Furthermore, Washington runs the danger of not only stigmatizing individuals but also technology. If proxy services are explicitly linked to U.S. policies, the Chinese government is all but certain to double their efforts to thwart all software designed to leap over the Great Firewall, and because Beijing exports information control technology to other authoritarian regimes, there’s a danger of the closed Internets everywhere being quickly “immunized” against the tools designed to crack them open.

Lastly, we should always remember that although China itself is not democratic, there are democratic forces at work in the country, and those forces have been increasingly successful at forcing changes in government policy.  Netizens, dissidents, and the Chinese consumer each wield their own forms of democratic power, but Chinese democracy is prickly and resents paternalistic Western interference.  Consequently, Chinese can be vociferous in their criticism of the government so long as that criticism is seen to be genuinely “Chinese” in origin. The best thing that Google can do in the long term is to let the Chinese people, not Washington, say “Don’t Be Evil” to Zhongnanhai.  Despite Baidu’s homefield advantage, Chinese companies are service leaders, not technology leaders.  Google is the number one technology leader, and Chinese consumers can appreciate that fact.  At the same time, the best thing that the West can do in the years ahead is to treat information control technologies like we would nuclear weapons: fight to control the spread of the technology; work to reduce its application, especially in democracies; but ultimately hope that governments can mature to the point where such technologies are seen as archaic and unnecessary.

Kosovo’s Dangerous Statehood

When most Americans are introduced to the international media’s chosen narrative about Kosovo, that of ethnic Albanians overcoming oppression and securing their right to self-determination, they are likely to feel proud that America served as midwife to the birth of the newest country in the world. They are no doubt doubly proud to see all the American flags being waved by jubilant Kosovar Albanians . Wow, they must think, here are some Muslims who actually love us for a change. On top of this, some Serbs had to come along and burn the US Embassy in Belgrade in response to the Kosovar independence vote, thus cementing the perception that America has truly been on the side of the angels in the Balkans.

Kosovar Albanians

My suppositions may seem exaggerated, but they have some basis in fact. The backstory of Clinton’s war in Kosovo was that of America returning to the heart of Europe to defeat a new, would-be Hitler — Slobodan Milosevic. After Milosevic’s forces retreated from the province and the bombs stopped falling in Belgrade, the story of Kosovo quickly disappeared from public consciousness. The media subsequently downplayed such developments as ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Albanian side after the war, since that would have complicated the black and white politics of the Balkans. Still, Kosovo came roaring back to the front pages this week, and it seems many young Americans still subscribe to the storyline first drafted in the 1990s.

Just consider the results of this ABC News/Facebook poll on the subject. 54% of the respondents are between the ages of 18 and 24.

Facebook poll on Kosovo

While at first I was going to chalk this result up to the overexuberance of Obama supporters who flood Facebook polls, support for Kosovar independence in the poll is in fact broad across the ideological spectrum. (A caveat: the Facebook polls do not give statistics to separate American Facebook users from foreign Facebook users, so there’s a chance, however slight, that anti-Serb foreigners could be rigging the poll.) If accurate, this poll can only mean that the media has one again downplayed the risks of supporting the Kosovar Albanians in favor of a feel-good morality play. But those risks are real, and we have only begun to feel the effects.

The most immediate fallout from Kosovo’s vote on Feb. 17 is the mortal blow dealt to the project of Westernizing Serbia proper. Paradoxically, this means that American policy, insomuch as it encouraged Kosovar independence, has utterly undermined American policy, insomuch as it supported Serbian liberalization.  After all, the US and the European powers had several key goals at war’s end: first, removal of Milosevic and his nationalist clique, and second, the cultivation of liberal values in Serbia, leading perhaps to the ultimate goal of Serbian accession to the European Union. Unfortunately, after the Kosovar vote, the Serbian tilt towards the West has ended for the foreseeable future and Pan-Slavic ties between Serbia and Russia have strengthened considerably. As Serbia’s patron, Russia can be counted on to block Kosovo’s integration into the world community, contributing to the possibility that Kosovo will be a failed state in the years to come. Beyond these troubles, there remains a very real possibility of a new war in the region.

One would have hoped that the West had learned its lessons after statebuilding experiments in Iraq and Yugoslavia — two historical fictions held together by the centripetal force of dictatorship — but our present situation suggests otherwise. Kosovar statehood, like the British creation of Iraq and the Euro-American creation of Yugoslavia, is a perfection sought at the expense of the good. Our loss will come in the form of the dangerous precedent established by the West in Kosovo, which threatens to embolden a myriad of separatist factions around the world, all of which have clamored for a state of their own, yet who, until now, have lacked the legal and political standing to make their desires a reality. However, by recognizing Kosovo, the West has unwittingly aided these factions by rewriting the rules of statehood.

Let’s now look at how the West has decided in favor of statehood for Kosovo and what that means to the rest of the world. To begin with, Kosovo meets only a few of the traditional requirements for statehood. Points in favor of Kosovar statehood include the fact that province is territorially contiguous and internationally recognized by the United States and most — but not all — of the European Union. The Palestinians will tell you that the former is a necessary but not sufficient condition for statehood. The latter, while a classical rule of international politics, is a matter of relativity; Taiwan certainly functions like a state despite the fact that few countries dare recognize it as such.

Points against Kosovar statehood are numerous and include the fact that Kosovo, in a Weberian sense, does not have a monopoly on the use of force; the fact that the territory is not economically independent from Serbia, or, in the place of Serbian ties, Western aid; the fact that the present-day population of Kosovo is the product of a relatively recent demographic shift and not a “permanent” situation; and the fact that Kosovo qua state has no prior historical reality. Taking these points one by one,

  • the Weberian criticism is the weakest, since Kosovo has, since the declaration of UN Resolution 1244, continued to be administered by NATO and the UN, and the Kosovar government has had no chance to exercise its full powers. As such, Kosovo’s stability in the absence of foreign presence remains a giant question mark.
  • Next, the poor Kosovar economic situation will necessitate either long-term support from Western powers, thrusting Kosovo into a semi-colonial situation, or else invite economic union with Albania. Neither of these options is good for Kosovar sovereignty, and a federal arrangement with Serbia would have been more conducive to economic growth and regional stability
  • Moving on, rather than being Albanian all along, Kosovo has become Albanian thanks in part to internal migration within the former Yugoslavia and World War II era Nazi policies which saw Kosovar Serbs expelled en masse and replaced by Albanian allies of the Nazi regime. Admittedly, some in the United States may be bold enough to argue that recent demographic changes deserve to be honored by new political arrangements, but few Americans would support this logic being applied to the benefit of Mexicans living in the American Southwest.
  • Lastly, the biggest strike against Kosovar statehood is that it has never historically been its own country. For hundreds of years it was either controlled directly by the Serbs or by the Ottomans (who controlled the Serbs). Unlike East Timor, Kosovo wasn’t an independent territory violently annexed by its neighbor. Nor was Kosovo part of historical Albania seized by the Serbs the way Israel seized the Sinai Peninsula. Yet historians and the media have worked together to create the fiction of Kosovar nationhood since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and like the story of demographic change noted above, the political history of Kosovo is rarely discussed in the Western media, much to the detriment of the public and decisionmakers alike.

Given that many of the strongest rationales for Kosovar statehood are nonexistent, Western foreign policy elites have had to invent new reasons to make Kosovo an independent country, and it’s these reasons that pose the greatest dangers to piece.

First, there is the idea — which is seemingly an outgrowth of identity politics — that ethnic homogeneity within a particular territory is enough to justify separatism. That is to say that if a country’s population is 85% group A and 15% group B, but 90% of group B is concentrated within a single enclave, then that enclave has the right to declare itself a state. Many people will accept this idea at face value without considering what it means. If, for example, group B is distributed throughout several small enclaves within a country, it may decide to engage in ethnic cleansing for the sake of unifying those enclaves and earning the “right to statehood.” In effect, this is what the Kosovar Albanians did by pushing out as many Serbians and Montenegrins as they could from 1999 to 2008. Although self-determination is a cherished right, many Westerners take for granted the fact that other cultures do not share our belief that our right to self-determination ends where another man’s face begins.

Second, it is suggested that the Kosovar Albanians be given a state thanks to their years of oppression at the hands of the Serb majority. This is of a piece with the Serb and Orthodox belief that Kosovar independence is another punishment visited upon Serbia for Milosevic’s misbehavior. (And that the US is furthermore an “enemy” of Orthodox peoples.) This idea is not objectionable outright — it is, after all, a basic tenet of Zionism and therefore a founding principle of the state of Israel — but it begs the question of just how long and how severe the oppression must be to warrant the creation of a new state as the remedy. (When the oppression happened is also an important factor to consider. Is there a statute of limitations on such grievances?) If applied equally, this principle would lead to a splintering of countless states in the international community, not to mention emerge as a grave threat to the very American concept of pluralism, which addresses the issue of oppression through the rule of law.

Lastly, many Western observers and diplomats argued that Kosovo deserved to become a state because it wanted to. (That any parties could object was inconceivable, inconceivable!) This makes sense after a fashion. If you were a diplomat tasked with bringing peace to the region, Kosovar independence would appear to be an appealingly simple solution to a complex problem, and so, like the doctor who encourages amputation instead of chemotherapy in every case of cancer, allowing Kosovar Albanians such an extraordinary degree of self-determination was the easy way for the West to get out of the Balkan morass. What they don’t take into account, though, is how exactly these three new rationales for Kosovar independence will resonate outside of the Balkans.

Starting with the ethnic Russian militants in Georgia’s Abkhazia and Ossetia regions and continuing with DPP rabble-rousers in Taipei, the recognition of Kosovo has emboldened separatists who will attempt to leverage these new standards of statehood to their own advantage. We close now with a brief survey of several internal conflicts worldwide and a look at how they will be affected by the Kosovo precedent.

regional conflicts

As the table suggests, the independence of Kosovo stands to have a strong impact on India should the Kashmiri Muslims coalesce into an effective separatist group. Likewise, the Tamil Tigers will have new strategies in their war for statehood and Tamil nationalists in India’s State of Tamil Nadu might follow suit. Overall, however, Kashmir is the most dangerous territory since, besides an internal conflict, it could lead to a regional conflagration between Pakistan, India, and China.

For its part, China will probably be minimally affected, though Xinjiang “terrorist/separatist” groups will remain a factor, and in general, China will stay “gravely concerned” about Kosovar independence. Taiwan could declare itself independent tomorrow but such a move would only further isolate Taiwan rather than invite the full embrace of the international community.

Like Taiwan, Chechen independence would likely go unrecognized owing to the resurgent strength of Russia within the international system. That doesn’t mean, however, that militants wouldn’t look to Kosovo for inspiration and begin another round of fighting.

As it stands, the Russian-dominated regions of Georgia, the Muslim regions of Mindanao in the Philippines, the Spanish Basque Country, and Kurdistan have the greatest potential to erupt into conflict. These conflicts might be civil wars and/or increased terrorism in the Philippines and Spain or they might be full-scale regional conflicts, such as a Russo-Georgian war on behalf of independence for Abkhazia and Ossetia. And if Iraq fails to make significant progress towards a stable government in the coming years, the Kurds will be extremely tempted to take the Kosovar route, and the West — specifically the US — will have to dangle a very large carrot to prevent Iraq from fragmenting.

In conclusion, as nationalist groups around the world begin to learn and apply the lessons of Kosovar independence to their own irredentist and separatist claims, they will not only renew their conflicts with increased vigor but also force the West into a corner. Will we take the hypocritical position of creating one set of rules for Kosovo while requiring other regions to play by the old rules? Will we encourage a thousand democratic flowers to bloom, or will we recognize the danger state fragmentation poses to world peace? Advisers to the next president should take a long, hard look at the Kosovo situation right now, because what they might be seeing is the next president’s war.

Great Firewall, Bad Legislation

With the election cycle upon us, it’s not surprising that American politicians have taken to criticizing China more directly on issues such as Burma, the trade deficit, environmental protection, and Internet censorship. The last issue has drawn extra attention of late, perhaps because human rights advocates in the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and populist anti-corporate voices have joined together to lash out at US companies for helping China to build the Great Firewall, China’s Internet censorship regime.

This week, Rebecca MacKinnon chronicled the latest legislation unveiled in the House, the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 (henceforth GOFA). The GOFA would penalize American firms who “play along” with the Chinese censorship regime and require such things as keeping user information databases outside of China. MacKinnon wryly notes that a similar effort got nowhere last year, but I believe China is more high-profile than ever in voters’ minds, so the bill might actually see some floor action.

All the pity, then, that the focus of Reps. Smith, Lantos, and others in the Human Rights Caucus is misdirected. Even if the GOFA becomes law, the chances of it putting a dent in the Great Firewall are slim to none. It would, in theory, cripple the Chinese market operations of Cisco, Microsoft, Google and similar corporations, but it wouldn’t mean the end of the Great Firewall. In a way that mirrors the contributions of foreign manufacturers to Chinese industry, the expertise of many Western tech companies have certainly accelerated the development of Internet censorship in China, yet just as Chinese firms like Haier have emerged from joint venture arrangements to stand on their own, Chinese Internet censorship would continue to thrive without, say, the latest Cisco routers.

This doesn’t mean, however, that US firms like Yahoo should be free from criticism for their cooperation with Chinese authorities. On the contrary, they deserve to be publicly excoriated for every little kowtow they make towards the Powers That Be. (This goes double for companies that talk big about defending free expression in the US but do just the opposite in China. I’m looking at you, Google.) But we should nonetheless realize that punishing American firms for doing business in China will do little to enhance the freedom and opportunities of Chinese Internet users.

The alternative tactic of China critics is to make normative claims against China itself, to switch from saying “Cisco is evil for helping to build the Great Firewall” to saying “China is evil for having the Great Firewall in the first place.” Yet anyone who has studied modern China at all will immediately recognize that such criticisms fall on deaf ears, both in the halls of government in Beijing and, more unfortunately, on the streets and in the Internet cafes. Not only does the government bristle at what it deems “outside interference” in Chinese society, even the most cosmopolitan-minded Chinese may turn nationalistic when foreigners are seen lecturing to the Chinese government.

All of the above begs the question, what could the West in general and the US in particular do to weaken the Great Firewall? The answer may lie in seeing Chinese Internet censorship not as a moral issue but as an economic one. Let’s consider the following proposal.

In general, Westerners react to Chinese Internet censorship the way they react to book burnings: the government in question is deplored and the right to write and publish defended. Yet this analogy is weak on a number of fronts, not the least of which is that websites and especially web services represent a bundle of economic interests that are different than books. Moreover, while China is party to no conventions which call for political liberalization, the country has joined a number of agreements and organizations that call for economic liberalization, chief among them the World Trade Organization. And when considering the adverse economic effects from arbitrarily shutting out Western portals, search engines, and BSPs from the Chinese market, can we not call the Great Firewall a trade barrier?

I admit that I’m not the first to see Chinese Internet censorship as a form of crypto-protectionism. Much like a regime of infant industry protection, when Western web services are blocked, it forces Chinese users to turn to the Chinese competition. For instance, China’s recent blocking of Feedburner led the Chinese blogosphere to start using the Chinese provider Feedsky. When the blocks are lifted, the Chinese users are unlikely to return to the Western services unless, like Microsoft’s Hotmail, which has been blocked off and on, the service is significantly embedded into another service Chinese users depend on, such as Windows Live Messenger.

We can predict several of the ways the Chinese government would respond to such a challenge. First, they’d claim the right to protect Chinese citizens from indecent online content, and point to European censorship of Nazi ideology as a similarly justifiable form of censorship. Yet such a claim would invite intense scrutiny of what the Chinese government deems indecent. For example, is it reasonable to claim that Flickr or Youtube must be blocked to protect children from pornography when Chinese boys can use government-approved Baidu to look at Taiwanese actress Shu Qi’s famous parts? (Link NSFW, obviously.) Admittedly, hypocritical application of the law might at first seem a weak foundation for a WTO challenge, that didn’t stop Antigua from winning a WTO case against the US on similar grounds.

Secondly, they’d claim that any web provider can play ball in China if they follow the Chinese rules, so there’s no discrimination against foreign companies who cooperate. That said, while large companies have been asked to agree to censorship to continue doing business online in China, for the most part, China rarely publicizes its censorship requests or confirms the extent of its censorship. As some have noted, the entire enterprise of Chinese Internet censorship is murky and subjectively applied. Indeed, many services, such as Wikipedia, are just blocked outright, with no warning, while some sites continue to be accessible despite having materials long declared verboten in China. This lack of openness and evenhandedness means that the Great Firewall, in its current form, would be incompatible with the nondiscrimination and transparency requirements of the WTO.

In the end, moving the Chinese censorship debate from the halls of Congress to the fora of the World Trade Organization would not guarantee an end to the Great Firewall, but it would force the Chinese government to come clean about the extent and nature of its online censorship, which is in itself a victory. Furthermore, it provides an economic disincentive to other WTO member-countries currently thinking of building their own Great Firewalls. While an economy of China’s size could easily endure theoretical WTO sanctions, smaller developing countries would be hit hard and forced to weigh the costs and benefits of censorship. Finally, if successful, it would encourage Western political leaders to think creatively about how to encourage Chinese liberalization rather than to resort to the old moralizing discourse.