After years of calling President Trump a dictator he finally gave the people what they wanted, with his administration taking a page right out of the Communist Party textbook on how to run the internet inside of one’s own country. Mike Pompeo recently rolled out a press release detailing the “Clean Network to Safeguard America’s (online) Assets” which is essentially going be a sort of anti Great Firewall of China keeping their companies’ and government influence far away from American eyes. So is this unusual program a sign of dictatorship or just “Making America Great Again”?
A Possible Multipolar Moment thanks to Trump?
So far during the internet’s short history, this global system created by the U.S./West has been open to all with some countries voluntarily choosing to cut themselves off from it. Besides some minor censorship like LinkedIn being blocked in Russia for refusing to conform to Russian law, China and North Korea have put up very heavy blockades isolating themselves from the global online community. China has put the ban hammer to most (if not all) Western social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter while at the same time copying these concepts and developing equivalents for their own market. When you have a massive single-language population and wealth you can make things like Youku Tudou allowing the majority of people to never even know that YouTube exists. So far, the blockades against the global internet have been put up exclusively by the uppity non Western nations. But now with Trump and crew forcing Chinese sites/programs like Tik Tok and WeChat to basically privatize themselves thus, in theory, ridding themselves of any Communist Party influence, we see a Border Wall being built within the “World Wide Web” and the Chinese are paying for it.
One important aspect of these measures to reduce Red Chinese influence, is that because it is still a Communist nation any business with 15 or more employees is answerable to the state (according to foreigners who have worked in Chinese firms, the dynamic between the state and private business is very complex there and can read about it in great detail here). So if one is to strictly fear Chinese meddling in U.S. affairs then pretty much any business in the whole country could be considered an arm of the Chinese Communist Party.
This will force China to rethink its attitude towards the internet. If the Democrats win the election (and even if they don’t and are angry enough) Russia will surely be added to the list of “Clean” measures. Ironically the Russian word for “purges” is “chistka” which means “a cleaning” making Pompeo’s text look like something right out of 1920’s NKVD handbook. We cannot forget that Washington still lives in a Cold War reality where every person in today’s Capitalist Russia somehow answers directly to the Kremlin, meaning that somehow VK.com is working for Vova and will have to be shut down.
In some ways behind its Great Firewall, China does have its own internet but if these safety policies continue to extend we could see that our planet will begin to have have multiple separate “internets” for at least Russia, China and the West/rest of the world. This move by Trump is certainly bad for China but good for Anti-Globalism and Multipolarity.
Foreign People Have No Rights
Does the U.S. Government have the right to put up internet barriers? It seems obvious that Americans have the right to read material from China even if it is laced with corny propaganda. Freedom means having the freedom to be bombarded by all sorts of information from Communists, snake oil salesmen, and blockchain con artists. You have the right to read/view what you like right?
Furthermore, doesn’t Trump believe in the Free Market? If Chinese companies are doing better then don’t they have the right to succeed and get access to open markets? On the surface this all seems very unfair.
The U.S. Constitution gives rights to American Citizens to read Chinese material but foreigners have no rights to project that information to America. Nor do they have any rights to American shelves or one square inch of American soil. These are the kinds of views that Trump got elected for. He sent the message that under him we would live in a world with borders. Trump quickly outright banned certain nations from travelling to America, continues to build The Wall, and this move against China is consistent with this philosophy, for Americans everything, for non Americans nothing.
Obviously the Chinese (government and/or individuals) could just pay American citizens to operate these things out of America, much like how Kalashnikovs have to be made in Florida for use/sale on U.S. territory, but that is why they invented FARA to scare off or control anyone willing to do this. This leaves the Chinese very few options but to somehow privatize these programs/apps/sites to appease Trump or suffer big financial losses.
Who is the Alpha Dog?
These restrictions are mostly the Global Hegemon asserting its dominance. The Chinese are not allowed to spy, put hidden software, etc. on Americans’ devices but there is nothing restricting Apple/Google from continually doing the same thing to people across the globe including within U.S. borders.
Trump could call to create an international agreement about how we deal with each other’s citizens’ personal data and how we can operate fairly without spying on one another. He could have chosen a more Thomas Jefferson flavored agreement between nations. He chose instead to go with a more dictatorial approach of “do what I want or else”. The success of this move will really show just how strong the U.S. can actually control/punish/influence China with direct action. China cannot back down and sell off anything Trump tells them to, but they certainly have to retaliate, the question is how? Perhaps the “fall of the empire” is still far off.
- For the first time the West is pushing someone off the World Wide Web on a nearly national scale.
- The banned nations will continue to use a separate internet(s).
- Since almost every Chinese company of note could be considered to be under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party it is vulnerable to being banned.
- e. China can be banned as a whole.
- Russia will surely be punished by these laws because Cold War/Putin Bad
- This move is ideologically consistent with the values Trump projected during his campaign – America first.
- This packet of policies is Constitutional.
- The success of this policy packed in deterring the Chinese will show just how strong the U.S. can actually affect China with direct action.