x
Security Platforms/Tools

Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

What should U.S. technology companies do about China?

The question hasn't been completely resolved, and it's back in the news now that the Human Rights Law Foundation is suing Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), accusing the company of helping China put up Golden Shield, the government's firewall and surveillance network that was used to track members of Falun Gong.

The news was reported by outlets Monday including The Wall Street Journal (registration required) and The New York Times (registration possibly required).

Cisco has been criticized for its China dealings before, but this lawsuit challenges Cisco's repeated claims that it didn't design or customize anything for the Chinese government. That would shatter the argument, used by plenty of companies, that vendors have no control over what China does with its networks -- an argument that always felt disingenuous. (See China Censorship Debate Circles Cisco .)

Still, it seems unreasonable to just cut off business with China. In defending their practices, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and others have argued that the spread of technology has a long-term liberating effect. It's another oily rationalization, and I don't like it -- and yet, it has a germ of truth in it.

I keep thinking about Wired's November report about dissidents putting cracks in China's firewall. It would be better to not build the firewall in the first place, yes, but even in crippled form, the Internet is opening the channels of free speech.

China's only real option would be to disconnect, and that's not going to happen. China's relationships with the rest of the world have grown too deep. Those relationships are based heavily on commerce. It might be distasteful to know that U.S. companies are contributing to China's networks, but stopping the flow of business doesn't seem like the right response.

At the same time, there's a line that shouldn't be crossed, and Cisco might have gone there. It was bad enough when that Cisco presentation got leaked a few years ago, with "The Golden Shield Project" in the title, and the quoting of the Chinese party line that Falun Gong is an "evil religion."

That could be shrugged off as poor judgement, but if the accusations in the new lawsuit are correct, Cisco, like Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) before it, has a lot more to answer to.

Regardless of how the case turns out, the Human Rights Law Foundation has achieved its first goal: attention. We're getting reminded that some of the big questions around business in China are still lingering. This is complicated moral ground, and it would be good to hear more companies acknowledge that problem, even if they don't yet have the solutions.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Page 1 / 2   >   >>
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:04:41 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

If governments buy and abuse a telecom product, that's not the fault of the manufacturer, is it?


 

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:04:41 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

HEY! No threadjacking! Don't make me implement virtual TSA on our boards! They'll touch your virtual junk and mess up all the virtual clothes in your virtual bag! I don't know what that means, but it sounds AWFUL.


Didn't realize Freescale was so close to IPO.  Hope they're not expecting another LinkedIn.

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 5:04:41 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

Hi Craig-


  Sorry for the threadjacking, but this seems up your alley:  It's do or die time for Freescale-


http://www.marketwatch.com/story/freescale-yandex-to-lead-tech-ipos-2011-05-23?dist=afterbell

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:04:40 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

Depends on your view as information as a weapon...Pen mightier than the sword?


By the way, if the People's Republic wants to give me a bunch of money to limit the comm of their people and spy on them - I am more than willing to do it. Course I have no morals.  :)



But seriously, I think saying that it is an amoral act (without any morality either way) is pretty convenient.  Not saying right or wrong but it is probably not neutral.


seven


 

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:04:40 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

 


Well, Lord of War is about a illegal gun dealer who ships large quantities of former Soviet Weapons primarily to Africa to sell to the dictatorships there.


Good Nicolas Cage movie.  Just selling kit to governments!


 


seven


 

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:04:40 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

Phil - ever seen Lord of War?


 


seven


 

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:04:40 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

Just as there is hardly any morality in what we purchase as consumers (ever bought anything made in China?) I do honestly believe there is little to no morality in selling commodity goods.


Weapons are a different story. Routers? Meh.


 


ph

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:04:40 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

That's one extreme. The other, I guess, is selling routers or DPI gear (which can't be weaponized, that I know of) to China. 


 

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:04:40 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

Nope. I have seen Lords of Dogtown. Had no idea surfing and skating were so closely linked.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:04:39 PM
re: Cisco's China Syndrome Reopens

I don't know...


If you're selling routers into a blank-canvas situation -- into some anonymous aggregation network, maybe -- then I can see it.


When you know that your equipment is being used to construct the security mechanisms that will censor traffic and ease the tracking of dissidents ... when you know it to the point that you can put these items in your presentation slides ... that's when I'd walk away.


But then, that's why I'm not a salesperson or a CEO.


Keep in mind, too, that the lawsuit reported today claims Cisco went a step further and actually helped build Golden Shield, allegedly. (Cisco has denied this repeatedly.) If that turns out to be true, then that's crossing into less vague moral territory.

Page 1 / 2   >   >>
HOME
Sign In
SEARCH
CLOSE
MORE
CLOSE