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Thanks to television informercials talking about "ancient Chinese wisdom" and the blur of Olympics-related boosterism raving on about "One China", it's easy to make the mistake of thinking that China has been a single country forever. But that's definitely not the truth. China has only been around in its present form as a unified state since about World War II. Just wait for the full impact of the temporary lifting of China's "great firewall" to take hold.
Remember what happened when a court ordered Napster to shut down? Record numbers of people raced to visit the site, downloading everything they could before the site (and the promise of free music) was gone forever. The same rule should be expected to apply in China: If a site like Project Gutenberg, which has been blocked by Chinese censors, suddenly becomes available, then it should logically follow that enterprising Chinese users would hit the site in huge numbers, downloading everything they could before the Great Firewall found its way back into service. A preposterous range of sites have been blocked by Chinese censors: From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to Wikipedia. So if a brief period of free access comes about, it should be expected that loads of traffic will follow, and that the visitors would try to collect and save as much "free" material as they possibly can.
This is important because there are lots of "dangerous" ideas out there -- dangerous, that is, to a government that tells its people what to do. From the Federalist Papers to the works of John Stuart Mill to Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, so many ideas are out there that, once set free in a nation of 1.3 billion people, we should expect someone to decide they don't agree with the status quo.
Unfortunately, the latest round of free-trade talks have fallen apart. Quite simply, this is very bad news. Free trade is what makes a grocery store such a pleasant place to visit: I don't have the remotest clue how to make most of the prepared foods in a supermarket, but I don't have to. Trade makes it worth someone else's while to make those things for me, just as it makes it worth my while to do what I do best in a way that benefits others. We're all poorer when trade gets artificially restricted.
Applause for Bill Gates: He's putting $27 million into research that could help us fight wheat rust, a little-known (but huge) threat to our food supply.
Someone needs to tell the political leadership in Australia that building a national broadband Internet system is probably not the best way of ensuring universal access.
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Keywords in this show: Australia • broadband Internet access • censorship • China • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation • free trade • Federalist Papers • Great Firewall of China • Gates, Bill • Internet • Internet censorship • King, Martin Luther • Mill, John Stuart • Napster • Olympics • Project Gutenberg • trade • wheat rust