Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Leapfrog for Cchina to catch Silicon Valley in AI

Edited version first appeared in Asia Times.

Kai-fu Lee’s book on artificialIntelligence will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September and Dr. Lee is already scheduled to make several appearances in the Bay Area to talk about his book around the last week of September.

The full title of his book is “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.” In his book, Lee makes the startling contention that within the last three years, China has caught up to Silicon Valley in AI. And, no, Mr. Trump, it’s not because the Chinese has stolen the algorithm from Google. Rather, China leapfrogged the US in mobile computing, which enabled China to take a different path to AI nirvana.

Dr. Lee is one of the pioneer creators and thinkers of artificial intelligence. After he obtained his doctorate degree in AI from Carnegie Mellon, he joined Apple in Cupertino to develop the voice recognition system and then left for China to build research centers of excellence for Microsoft and Google. Now he is the premier venture capitalist investing in AI startups in China.

Nowadays, artificial intelligence has become part of daily conversation, even if not everyone understands what AI is all about. Wall Street considers AI to be the latest winning investment in technology following the Internet and the smart phone. Lee believes development of AI is even more profound than that, equating the future impact of AI on the human civilization to be as fundamentally revolutionary as the invention of the steam engine that ignited the first industrial revolution and electricity for the second.

Deep learning raised the power of artificial intelligence

AI became a real emerging technology when researchers moved machine learning to the next level called “deep learning.” Properly designed algorithm, called neural network, can learn to fine tune its algorithm by repetitive trial and error calculations, at lightening speed, until the best solution is derived based on the data set fed to the algorithm. The bigger the data set that’s fed to the algorithm, the better is the resulting optimization and solution.

The importance of big data, explains Lee, has allowed China to close the gap with Silicon Valley in AI because China generates much more useful and higher quality data than in the US. Lee credits Steve Job and the introduction of the smart phone as the event that pushed China into AI development.

Observers in the West may not have noticed that as China’s economy grew at dizzying rates in the 40 years since reform began, the country leapfrogs certain crucial development along the way. Telecommunication is one such example. When China began its economic reform, its telecommunication network was woefully inadequate. The country was so under invested in copper wire lines overland that it was easier for the consumer to adopt the mobile phone rather than waiting for the allocation of a landline.

The smartphone facilitated China’s entry into AI

When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, China already had the largest number of mobile phones users in the world, and the users were primed to upgrade to a smartphone, albeit not always an iPhone but a lower priced, domestically made alternate. At the time most Chinese did not own a computer at home and the smartphone gave the Chinese user Internet access bypassing the need to buy a computer.

Chinese entrepreneurs quickly learn to develop apps specifically for the smartphone. For example, being decades behind the West, the use of credit card never really took off in China. Now with WeChat, considered a “superapp” by Lee, the smartphone can be linked to the owner’s bank account and the phone becomes a digital billfold able to make and receive payments.

The American AI monitors the user preferences such as what website the user visits. In China, Tencent, the owner of WeChat, can gather data not only on what the user looked at, but what he/she bought, from whom, where and when. The data collected is much higher quality and multi-faceted. In addition, China has at least 3 times more users generating data for feeding into AI optimization than in the US.

The author argues that while China remains behind the US on the creative side of writing AI algorithm, China has been closing the gap and in some aspects surpassing Silicon Valley for certain uses of AI. This has occurred within the most recent three years because China has been gushing high quality data derived from the smartphone.

Data drive the AI virtuous cycle

The vast quantity of quality date is helping China refine their AI, which helps to improve the product offering, which increases customer acceptance, which generates even more data to optimize the AI program. Lee calls this the virtuous cycle of AI whereby the availability of date would allow an inferior AI algorithm to surpass the performance of a superior AI that do not have access to as much data.

One example would suffice to illustrate the difference between China and the US. A program in China called Smart Finance has used AI and access to the user’s smartphone to determine the creditworthiness of the individual and grant the user a personal loan. No collateral, no credit report, no personal references, and no banking information are needed. And the single digit loan default rate is the envy of commercial banks.

Apparently AI correlation of hundreds of data points residing in the smartphone (Lee calls them weak features) can more accurately evaluate the reliability of the borrower, even if no human banker can fathom why. The iteration of AI over millions of smartphones have established predictive rules and the accuracy will only improve with use—and default becomes even more uncommon.

While ground breaking AI research will continue in the US, China is graduating upwards of a million AI engineers every year. They are motivated and will work long hours to find new products and services based on AI solutions. And the access to huge amount of data will more than offset their not being as good in designing the algorithm.

China’s leadership recognizes the importance of AI and has allocated financial support to encourage and further AI research. The US? Not so much federal support and America will continue to depend on private sector efforts. Private sector AI will remain proprietary and be kept behind closed doors.

The author does not express much anxiety over the possible rivalry between the US and China. He is much more concerned with eventual advances in AI that could lead to wide spread displacement of human by machines. Owners of the powerful AI could become members of a small elite class that enjoy all the wealth and status while an “useless” class of masses can no longer generate enough economic value to support themselves.

This is where Lee becomes very personal drawing from his own dramatic experience as a cancer survivor. He suggests that no matter how advanced AI becomes, it can never replace human interaction that offer love and compassion. He proposes that we begin to prepare for the day by placing higher priority and monetary value for socially beneficial activities. In other words a drastic and basic reordering of our value system based on humanity.

His book is a thoughtful treatise on the possible benefits and destructive damages AI poses to the world. Anyone wanting to understand the downside of unbridled AI advances on the humankind will find relevant questions and answers in this book.
The Committee of 100 is the cosponsor with the Commonwealth Club of Dr. Kai-fu Lee’s speaking engagement in Santa Clara on September 26. Go to here for more information. Dr. George Koo is a retired China business consultant and a regular contributor to online Asia Times.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The More Things Changed, the More the World Stays the Same

"We are, perforce, one world, mutually dependent upon complex trade patterns and the distribution of diminishing resources."

Does the above quotation seem particularly relevant to today's world? It was actually an excerpt from a novel, Harlequin, written by Morris West. The copyright for this book of fiction was 1974. That's 40 years ago.

The arch villain in this book was someone who ran computer services for large corporations. They didn't have the Internet then. Today, the analogous villain would be running the cloud services.

As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Egad, what will the world look like forty years from now?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

China Hackathon* is Harmful to American National Interest

This piece, co-authored with Professor L. Ling-chi Wang, was submitted to New America Media and an edited version was posted on their website on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.  China's Global Times posted a version on March 6, 2013 and US edition of China Daily on March 13, 2013.
*We coined a term, hackathon, to connote on the one hand the alleged rampant hacking activity from China and on other the endless stream of accusations from the western media that seemed to preclude any possibility that hacking could come from elsewhere in the world.

Recent reporting of alleged hacking from China rapidly reached a crescendo. Led by the New York Times sensational disclosure of Chinese hacking since January 30, every publication of note or little note all seemed to have one or more stories on cyber attacks emanating from China.  

They were immediately followed by another headline-grabbing release of the Mandiant Report  on February 18, setting the stage for an announcement from the White House on February 20 that the administration was determined to protect American businesses and punish the perpetrators at home and abroad.

Is this an orchestration for a new policy initiative?  Or, is this just a reinforcement of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and “Trans Pacific Partnership,” two major initiatives aimed clearly in response to the so-called “Rise of China”?

Since the nascent art of hacking and counter measures of cyber security are subjects too esoteric and beyond the comprehension of most except those skilled in the craft, the media focused on the more lurid details taken from the so-called Mandiant Report.

The report alleged that most of the cyber attacks levied against corporate America came from a 12-story building in Pudong Shanghai that belonged to a particular department of People’s Liberation Army.

Since the issuer of the report is in the business of selling their services to safe guarding company networks from cyber attacks, presumably it is in their interest to portray the attackers as menacing and sinister as possible. The PLA certainly fits the bill.

However, shortly after the Mandiant Report broke the news, articles that presented contrary points of view began to appear. The most comprehensive belonged to Jeffrey Carr, a cyber security expert in his own right, who pointed out that there are more than 30 nations with the capability to run “military grade network operations” necessary to mount the kind of sophisticated attacks found in the report. According to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, Russian, Israel, and France are among the leading countries in cyber hacking activities. 

Carr concluded that Mandiant was too quick to identify China as the culprit without performing rigorous analysis to eliminate other competing hypotheses and comparing its cyber espionage activities with those of other countries.

Two days after the New York Times article, the US edition of the World Journal, an ethnic Chinese daily, reported that 7 of the IP addresses identified by the Mandiant report as coming from the PLA office in Shanghai were actually from Hong Kong including one from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

This was not surprising since hacking can come from anywhere in the world and easily misdirected to appear to come from somewhere else. What was surprising was that this finding came from a little noted ethnic paper and not from the major media stars.

Maybe Al Gore did not invent the Internet but it is an inconvenient truth that the US defense agency did and the Americans have since led the development and use of the Internet. As the world’s most advanced economy, the US has invested heavily and become most dependent on networks in the cyber space and thus most vulnerable to attacks.

The US also led in the development and use of weapons in cyber warfare. For example, the American developed Stuxnet worm has been credited with causing the centrifuges to spin out of control in the Iranian nuclear enhancement facility. Being the first known to use cyber attack in peacetime and in the absence of any international treaty and protocol, the US has lost the moral high ground to define appropriate conduct in cyber space.

This is of course not the first time that the US is reaping the consequences of what they sowed. The US has been the first (and to date) only country to use the atomic bomb. Since then, the US has had to devote decades of diplomatic efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation and now live in fear of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of rogue nations or terrorists.

The next Pandora’s box that the US has already opened and soon will be trying to close shut is the use of drones for transnational surveillance and assassinations of terrorist suspects without due process. Friends and foes alike have seen the cost effective capability of a drone in rendering destruction and killing and all are rushing to develop their me-too ability.

The day is nigh when the Americans will be troubled by the prospects of encountering drones of unfriendly intentions controlled by someone holding a grudge against America. Then the US will once again have to expend much diplomatic efforts proselyting the idea of “do as I say and not as I do.”

From time to time, China has been trying to tell the US that they do not hold any grievances against the US. In typically understated ways, China has let the US know that China possesses silent running submarines, stealth planes and missiles capable of downing communication satellites. China even went out of their way to make sure that American intelligence got a full picture of China’s nuclear weapon technology as suggested by nuclear scientist Daniel Stillman of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Latest airshows in China are displaying a large array of drones being made in China.

China appears to be practicing a porcupine defense strategy, i.e., peaceful intentions but beware of the ability to retaliate in kind. Some have suggested that the alleged PLA hacking has been deliberately sloppy, thus leaving visible trails to let the US know that China has cyber warfare capability.

Cyber espionage and warfare are serious problems here to stay.  The U.S. needs to develop effective, long-term counter measures and thoughtful and balanced diplomacy.  Singling out China as the sole villain without critically examining what other nations are doing, including us, is counterproductive, potentially misleading and in the long run, harmful to our national interests and world peace.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In doing no Evil is Google doing any Good?

Google’s very public dispute with China has everyone confused. First Google accused China of hacking into their servers but wait Google did not necessarily mean China but that hackers were from China. In fact hacking was identified as coming from servers belonging to a couple of schools in Shanghai, but wait may be not, may be some clever hacker, who could be from anywhere, has disguised their origin by commandeering those servers.

Google then announced that they are going to stop censoring the contents flowing through their servers in China and would no longer obey China’s laws related to the control of information being access by China’s netizens. Testimony before Congress seems to indicate that Google will definitely get out of China. Well, maybe not said CEO Eric Schmidt because he was confident of a positive outcome from quiet negotiation with Beijing--negotiations that Beijing has denied taking place.

Bill Gates couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. If a company is going to operate in China, the company is expected to obey Chinese laws. That’s the way it has been for Microsoft. If you don’t wish to obey the local laws, then yes, you better get out.

Somehow the issue seems more complicated from Google’s point of view. Whether at Google’s request or not, the US government seems ready to come to Google’s aid, by threatening to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) accusing China of protectionism. Since China’s laws on cyberspace apply to all Internet enterprises and not just against Google or just foreign companies, it is a head scratcher as to how the U.S. can make such a complaint stick.

It’s possible, I suppose, for the US to insist on China opening the Internet to the same degree that the US is open so that Google can be more successful instead of being merely a distant second in market share in China. But that would be based on a rather dubious premise that having to filter the content puts Google at a disadvantage.

Finally Kai-fu Lee, former head of Google China, spoke up and shed some light to this matter. Lee was lured away from Microsoft in 2005 to right the floundering Google ship in China. By most accounts, he was going a good job as Google was slowly gaining on Baidu, the market leader in search in China. He unexpectedly resigned in September last year.

While attending the Abu Dhabi Media Summit last week Lee was asked about China’s Internet industry. While he would not comment directly on Google in China, he said, “For an American company to succeed in China, it needs to do the following: first, you have to have an empowered local team; second, you need to humbly listen to the local user; third, you need to move fast to give users what they want; and fourth you need to have a longer-term outlook and not be too greedy in wanting to make money on day one.”

Google isn’t the only one to stumble in China. Facebook, eBay, Amazon and Yahoo all did not achieve dominant market share in China comparable to their success in the US. I suspect that all suffered from the same drawback. Namely, their not understanding the local market and not trusting their China team to seize the moment and make decisions without having to go through the corporate bureaucracy back home.

Lee was too diplomatic to ever admit that the frustration of lacking local empowerment was what caused him to seek greener pastures. But he certainly does understand the China market and potential. He has established Innovation Works to harness the energy of entrepreneurs inside China and nurture them into next generation Google’s.

Lee’s incubated start-ups will be participating in a home market of 350 million web surfers and Internet users and 680 million mobile phone users, both largest in the world and growing at double digit rates. In another 7 to 8 years, Lee expects the by then 800 million mobile phone users to access the Internet with their smart phones and that’s the market he wants to play in.

Surely CEO Schmidt has to be agonizing over the dilemma: can Google afford to dither and watch the world’s most dynamic market zip by?
After Google announced their move to Hongkong, I sent an updated commentary based on this blog to New America Media.

Google has just revealed that many countries have asked Google to remove contents. Of the countries that have asked Google to censor the contents, the United States came in 4th in frequency of requests.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Raising the image of "Made in China"

Since the rash of unfavorable publicity on poorly made products from China, some even with deadly consequences, I have been thinking about this matter. China has become such a dominant manufactuer of goods that any negative publicity hurts the image of all the products made in China. The damage can be enormous affecting not just export sales but the lingering reputation that China makes only shoddy goods.

Yet, given China's enormous population and geographical breadth, assuring product reliability and conformity to accepted standards from every manufactuer is a daunting if not impossible task. The irony is that as China become more successful as the global supplier, the task of protecting the image of products from China become ever more challenging.

In order to rectify the image of goods made in China, I have been an advocate for the Beijing Central Government to establish a website where any person or company can register and complain about quality and other problems they encounter from suppliers in China. In such a website, the complaint should identify the party and the location of the party as well as describing the nature of the dispute.

This approach can have three major benefits:

(1) By erecting such a site, China is proclaiming to the world that the government is promoting transparency in business transaction and is encouraging buyers from all over the world to help China maintain the consistent quality of products made in China.

(2) The information on the website can help QSIQ (full name: General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine) identify the trouble spots and focus their surveillance and enforcement efforts in problem regions of China.

(3) Local officials are no longer motivated to abet, shelter or protect offending suppliers of sub-quality goods, since such producers can run and hide but the local officials cannot.

The immediate impact of such a website is to raise the confidence of buyers and consumers of goods made in China.

In order for such a website to realize its potential, it must be easy to use and must be tamper proof. Anyone wishing to register a complaint may not do so anonymously but must provide verifiable information about him/herself and the organization he/she is representing. The identity of the complainer must be kept confidential and available only to the people managing the website.

To encourage participation, the government may even consider offering a reward or suitable recognition as a friend of China for each complaint that leads to arrest of the offending party.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Flight of the Silicon Dragon

Every journalist dreams of writing a book and Silicon Dragon (McGraw- Hill, $24.95) is Rebecca Fannin’s. She interviews a dozen of China’s most successful entrepreneurs and builds a book around her profiles of their roads to success. These are some of China’s movers and shakers in the high tech industry, especially in Internet and wireless communication sectors. All of them are well known inside China but most are relatively unknown to the West. By describing and analyzing the keys to their success, Fannin has provided some lessons learned that are useful to anyone contemplating doing business in China.

As readers go through the 150 pages of easy to read text, they find certain common themes. The first lesson is that a proven business model from the U.S. does not guarantee success in China. Whether it’s Alibaba vs. eBay, Dangdang vs. Amazon or Baidu vs. Google, the local version has first mover advantage and can move quickly to localize the business model to ensure acceptance in China.

The established American competitors initially focused on their U.S. market and paid no attention to China. By the time they are ready for China, they attempt to leapfrog via acquisition of a local company. They then make the mistake of replacing the Chinese management team with culturally deaf and dumb managers from home or even move the headquarters back to the U.S. Thus they further handcuff themselves by removing the ability to react quickly to a fast changing market. The book offers many other gems on rules of conduct in China that readers will find useful.

Alas, the subtitle of this book: “How China is Winning the Tech Race” is unfortunately misleading. With the possible exception of the last chapter on possible technological breakthrough on light emitting diodes based on silicon, other chapters depict no threat of world leading edge, technical breakthroughs. Even the LED development with its vast potential to revolutionize the lighting of the world is at the pre-commercial stage. All the other chapters describe clever, hard working entrepreneurs that have basically improved upon something that already existed.

My personal view of where China will make a world leading edge, technology breakthrough is to look in life sciences and not in electronics. My reason is that China has been investing heavily in R&D. In such cases as stem cell therapy, researchers in China do not have the school of intelligent design as competitor for funding.

Regrettably, this book exhibits too much rush to publish and could have improved its quality with a bit of fact checking and editing. For example, the book says “China accounts for 24% of world production of semiconductors.” This is not true. China accounts for 24% of consumption but barely produces one fifth of what they consume. Albert Yu is described as “now-retired programmer” at Intel. His actual last position was Senior Vice President in charge of Intel’s microprocessor development. The two top foundries in Taiwan are identified as Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and United Microelectronics Corp. UMC is correct but the other, by far the largest and best known in the business is TSMC, where T stands for Taiwan.

Blemishes like those listed above, unfortunately, mar the confidence on the reliability of the information in the book that otherwise could serve as a valuable reference for tracking China’s future high tech development.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yahoo Takes Hit Meant for China

Editor’s Note: U.S. Congress’ attempt to penalize Internet giant Yahoo is just collateral damage in the real political battle it is waging on China, asserts NAM contributor George Koo. (First appeared in

No matter what the U.S. Congress will have us believe, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang was just the proxy for Congressman Tom Lantos to vent his anti-China demagoguery, in the controversy involving Yahoo’s turning over Internet usage data to Chinese officials.

At a Congressional hearing on Foreign Affairs chaired by the Democratic Congressman from California, Lantos denounced Yahoo and CEO Jerry Yang as “moral pygmies” for turning over the data.

Yahoo’s office in Hong Kong allegedly complied with China’s official request for records that would identify the sender of messages forbidden by the Chinese government. Consequently, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was apprehended and sent to jail.

At the televised hearing, the grief- stricken mother of the jailed journalist sat behind Yang throughout his testimony.

Lantos’ grandstanding, captured in full by the TV cameras, was as dramatic as Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe at the U.N. general assembly nearly 40 years ago.

Of course, Lantos is well known as the defender of human rights and a critic of China’s policies and practices. Yang was just the proxy for Lantos to vent his anti-China demagoguery.

Unfortunately, members of the U.S. Congress aren’t exactly “moral giants” when it comes to defending America’s own human rights and principles we hold dear.

Lantos led the inquiries into the horrors of Abu Ghraib; but when the Bush administration decided to stonewall Congress, Lantos and his fellow pygmies quietly went away.

Shortly before the Yahoo hearing, Lantos received a group of Dutch legislators after they toured Guantanamo. They suggested that the prison base “symbolizes everything that is wrong with this war on terror.”

One would expect a defender of human rights to agree, but Lantos was indignant. He said that Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay. (At least he seemed to recognize that atrocities had been committed in both.)

Apparently, this eager defender of China’s human rights has been clueless about the abuses committed by his own homeland. By declaring war on terror, Bush has successfully pulled the wool over a Congress that should know better.

In coining the term “enemy combatant,” the Bush administration has found a technicality to incarcerate prisoners indefinitely without semblance of any human dignity and due process. The U.S. Congress has simply gone along.

Now Congress is in the process of legalizing the wholesale deprivation of Americans’ civil liberties: AT&T will be allowed to eavesdrop, free from legal liability, and turn in e-mail traffic to the Department of Homeland Security.

The reasoning is that we Americans should be willing to give up some liberties in exchange for a more secure homeland.

The difference between the United States and China is that China asked for Internet data on select citizens, while the United States spied on its people without asking.

The United States, meanwhile, claims that the central difference between the two nations is that China is guilty of human rights abuses that would be unthinkable here. Unfortunately, when it comes to human rights abuses, China and the United States have more in common than we would like to admit. There is no limit to how hypocrisy can cloud one’s sense of right and wrong.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Too Much Ado in Congress Over China and the Internet

Editor's Note: America shouldn't tell China how its citizens should use the Internet, the writer says. George Koo is an international business consultant and contributor to New America Media. (First appeared in and subsequently reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle.)

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The current Congressional furor over China's Internet firewall can be boiled down to one simple conclusion: In my house, I rule; in your house, I also rule. In other words, we Americans insist that the Chinese should make use of the Internet in the same way we do.

This kind of logic makes as much sense as insisting that Beijing grant a broadcasting license to Voice of America inside China. So far, not even our hubris has reached that patently ludicrous conclusion.

In fact, the information and messages we think the Chinese people should not be deprived of are beamed by Voice of America from outside of China, not from within. If Google, Yahoo et al. wish to permit unfiltered access to all sorts of information to the people of China, they can. Just do it from outside of China.

In order to operate from inside China, it seems obvious that the companies would have to abide by the rules and regulations of the host country. We may not like those rules, but that's what sovereignty is all about.

Congress takes a different view, equating China's Internet policy to violation of human rights and denial of freedom of speech. Silicon Valley Internet companies are accused of dastardly complicity. Yet, ask Web surfers in China for their reaction, they merely shrug and cannot understand what the fuss is all about.

What about the human rights of journalists jailed in China for their indiscretion on the Net? In the same light, what about the many hapless innocent people caught in the U.S. fight against terrorism now languishing in Guantanamo or who were outsourced to third countries for torture? We may argue as to which is a greater violation of human rights, but ultimately, the resolution will come from within and not be dictated by another foreign authority.

In China, people use the Internet to play games, read the news and socialize in chat groups. Few use the Internet to purvey political messages; most do not care and do not feel deprived.

It's not as if China actively discourages use of and access to the Internet. Just the opposite: From about 1 million users in 1998, China has seen an increase to around 110 million users in just seven years. It will soon overtake the United States as the largest market of Internet users. Policy-makers in Beijing see the importance of information flow to economic growth more clearly than perhaps anywhere else.

Naturally, as China's market grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for Silicon Valley companies to ignore. Congress seems to think that China needs Silicon Valley technology more than the companies need the market. Not so. Chinese Internet users prefer China's Baidu's search engine over Google by a wide margin. Baidu's very success drove Google to entering the market. Huawei and Ztech are offering lower-cost networking switches to compete with Cisco. Yahoo leapfrogged its own effort to penetrate the Chinese market by spending $1 billion for a large stake in Alibaba, the most successful e-commerce Web site in that country.

Beijing's desire to control the flow of content while encouraging popular access are not mutually compatible over the long haul, so there's going to more information than controls. The situation fits the classic Chinese term for contradiction, mao dun, i.e., spear and shield. As technology advances, the power of the Internet will continue to grow and any firewall technology (the shield) will always play catch-up.

One of the Chinese government's reasons for the firewall is to restrict access to pornography in cyberspace. Its neighbor Taiwan, lacking such control, is a major source of purveyors of smut. It will be interesting to see how this contradiction plays out as the two sides entwine even more deeply in their economic integration.

Last November, Washington-based Pew Research announced the results of their global attitudes survey involving the people of 18 countries including China and the United States. One of the questions asked was, "How satisfied are you with the way things are in your country?" China scored the highest among the 18 countries with 72 percent indicating satisfaction and 19 percent not satisfied. In the United States, the results were reversed with merely 39 percent satisfied and 57 percent not.

Perhaps Congress was unaware of the Pew survey results since they were reported by few in the U.S. media. Rather than holding Congressional hearings on why China should make their cyberspace more open, shouldn't our elected politicians show more concern on why a mere 39 percent of our citizens are happy with the way things are going here?