ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Joe David McReynolds emails:
IMHO your reaction, and much of the right side of the blogosphere's, to Google's entry into the Chinese marketplace is wrongheaded. Do you think that if Google doesn't go there, Chinese internet users will just twiddle their thumbs and not search for stuff? That a blow will be struck to their machine of censorship?
Of course not. There are Chinese search engines that are almost the same, and they will (and have been) use those.
If anything, Google going into China is a net benefit to the Chinese people, same as MSN was.
American companies censor like the government forces them to, but as we see in the case of MSN, they are FAR MORE LAX about censorship and reporting of suspect activities than similar Chinese companies.
Getting Google into the Chinese market will probably neither slow nor accelerate the demise of China's ruling regime, when and if that comes; the vast majority of Foreign Direct Investment in China comes from abroad.
As far as the "Resistance to evil" factor, what one might call "washing our hands", that ship sailed a long time ago. The economic miracle that has been the Party's foundation of legitimacy in China was financed largely by overseas Chinese, not American multinationals. China is not like the Soviet Union, where dissidents could take comfort that somewhere, out there, there was someone who would fight the Soviets to the end. That just isn't the case in China, and Google's decision makes no difference.
I'm sorry that Google's action makes it harder to feel "clean" of the world's unpleasantness, but as stated above, if anything this is to the benefit of China's citizens who would like a free internet.
I imagine you'll get plenty of e-mail on this topic, but I'd hope this argument (whether made by myself or those more articulate than I) is something you will address.
Yes, my TCS column this week will look at those "constructive engagement" arguments. They're nontrivial, but still . . . .