Back when the media was getting all hot and heavy (sexual reference intended) on China’s plans to require internet filtering software, I did a post, Two China Things Of Which We Dare Not Speak (And Sex Is Not One of Them), explaining why my law firm’s China lawyers rarely write about proposed laws and why we had not written anything on the filtering software.
We gave the following reasons for why we do not like writing about proposed laws:
1. There are so many laws already on the books and being enforced that need coverage more. Laws on the books will impact you right now. Proposed laws may or may not ever come into being.
2. China has a habit of saying it will institute a new law and then never doing so. It floats new laws to gauge reaction. If the reaction is negative, the law oftentimes never comes into being.
3. China has a habit of instituting new laws and then never enforcing them. This often happens when the new law is negatively received.
Today, China officially backed down (no surprise). Or, in the words of the immortal Gilda Radner, Never mind.
China is billing it as a delay, but I can virtually guarantee this software will never be heard from again. I say this for two reasons. One, the people did not like it and Beijing does NOT want to go against the people on something like this. Since there is absolutely no reason to believe the people will ever start liking something like this, there is absolutely no reason to believe the software will return.
Two, I know movement has been slow, and I know it has been in fits and starts, but if we were to draw a straight line through the rises and falls, freedom is on a fairly inexorable march in China.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming….
UPDATE: E-Commerce Times quotes me in their story, “China Wobbles on Green Dam:”
It was never really clear whether or not Beijing would enforce the edict, according to Dan Harris, a partner in international law firm Harris Bricken and an expert on China.
“What they’re doing is floating an idea and seeing what the reaction is,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “In the last five years, there probably have been thousands of laws China said it’s going to enact and hasn’t. Or it has enacted them but hasn’t implemented them.”
FURTHER UPDATE: Sky Canaves has a great post up on the WSJ China Journal, Green Dam and the Politics of Consent, discussing how popular “consent” plays a huge role in China’s governance. This post nails it completely.