Obama Plays Good Cop to Google’s Bad Cop with China

As Google spars with China over Internet freedom, President Obama does his best to appease the Chinese for a combined sustainability effort.

Tiananmen Square


President Obama received the new Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui, with more than the customary platitudes promising a beneficial relationship between two countries. After all, the U.S. has essentially been pissing China off recently.

Google‘s much-ballyhooed strikes over internet freedom and censorship, though they lacked formal participation from the U.S. government, were still huge symbolic strikes against a Chinese regime more concerned with controlling its citizens than allowing them freedom of press and information. China has not bent an inch on their Internet policies, but the situation has been nothing but bad press for the country.

There are also debates over China’s possibly suspect yuan currency:

The United States is also pressuring China to allow the yuan to
appreciate, with lawmakers pushing the US Treasury to label Beijing a
“currency manipulator” in a report due out next month.

And, perhaps worst of all, the U.S. has, at least in China’s mind, implicitly supported either or both independence movements of Taiwan and Tibet, which goes against China’s sometimes-violent chokehold on the two territories. Back in January, the U.S. government signed a 6.4-billion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan, and the very next month, Obama spoke with the Dalai Lama in the White House.

But China is simply too important a trading partner, both now and in the forseeable future, for Obama to risk angering them. Even now, alongside this news, the two countries are collaborating on a joint energy research facility which will have branches in both the US and China. That research facility, toward which both countries are putting up about $75 million in earmarks, will work towards improving “energy efficiency, clean coal technologies, carbon sequestration and
green vehicles.” And that’s important, since China and the U.S. are the most energy-hungry countries on the planet, and both stand to make a whole ton of money solving that problem.

So for now, Obama has to kowtow a bit, say his piece about “reaffirming” Washington’s “One China” policy, stating his “determination to further develop a positive relationship with China,” and other such pleasantries. All that goes right in the face of Google’s recent initiatives, which perhaps more accurately mirror the feelings of the country itself–but then, Google, unlike Obama, has very little to lose by insulting China.


About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law