To that end, let me offer a look into a future that travels down the economic road the Chinese are already on. If the Chinese economic "miracle" doesnt hit a wall, as happened in Japan and Korea, I see two developing scenarios: In the first, the economic liberalization of China is followed by democratic reforms demanded by a growing middle class. This is a view recently voiced by Donald Rumsfeld, among others. The SecDef recently told reporters that he believes political liberalization is following economic changes in China by about 15 years.The other possibility, and this is a nightmare, is that Chinas economic growth wont be matched by political reform. Rather, China will remain a totalitarian regime but will become a dictatorship with incredible economic power. Such a powerful China could become the greatest threat that Western democracies have ever faced. For more insights from David Coursey, check out his Weblog. Dealing with China is doubtless a gamble. But if we dont do it, other nations will and American companies will be left out of what could become the worlds largest IT market. But, in doing business with the Chinese, U.S. companies have a responsibility to support the American agenda of promoting democracy and human rights. How to accomplish this is less clear. Given that progress in China may require one step backward for every two forward, I am not ready to criticize Microsoft, et al., too harshly. At least, not yet. Human rights groups should be vigilant in their monitoring of American businesses working in China and elsewhere. American companies should be sensitive to these concerns and help the Beijing government move toward a day when the only Chinese content filters will be those used by parents to protect their children from Web sites no child should see. Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.
If Rumsfeld is right, American economic involvement with China is a very good thing and will, over time, promote democratization. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Cisco, etc., working with the Chinese may not be a perfect thing today, but over time the involvement with these American companies cant help but improve pushing China toward some form of democracy and greater openness.