Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cyber PSYOP: Google vs. China

The recent “activity” surrounding Google’s China market search engine business and the Chinese government’s political, economic and technical actions to impose censorship on searches illustrates the critical nature of the cyber component of PSYOP and free information flow.

One of PSYOPs core principles is that truth is the best PSYOP weapon. The Chinese government goes to great lengths to insure that Chinese citizens only have access to truth that has been approved by the government and considered fit for consumption. Google has been an unparalleled success story and the wealth of its high tech founders is the stuff of legend. However, they have failed to learn by history.

I was quoted in Computerworld UK concerning the Google/China affair: “In Google's case, there are two aspects of why the Chinese government would pay special attention to Google: first of all open access to information is contra to the philosophy of the government of the People's Republic of China and secondly Google as a business offers lessons to be learned. Consequently it should be no surprise that Google has been attacked from inside and outside.” (; March 1, 2010)

From a strategic PSYOP perspective the Chinese of been able to: 1. harness their citizens to ‘protect’ the state, 2. muster significant technology resources and muscle to enforce their political will, 3. sacrifice short term economic gain for long term consistency, 4. Coordinate the disparate arms of government (foreign policy, economic development, military, and legal) to achieve an information objective that is part of their well understood governmental strategic communications strategy.

Taking the other tact for a moment, Google sought to evade China’s grip by redirecting searches from the Chinese Mainland to Hong Kong. Apparently they lost sight of the fact that in 1997 Hong Kong reverted back to the government of the People’s Republic. While Hong Kong retains traces of its former British governance and aspects of friendliness to the West, make no mistake it is part of China.

Google’s mantra of ‘do no evil’ smacks in some ways of the Star Trek Prime Directive (do not interfere with other cultures), however even this technological giant has met its match in the People’s Republic of China. The message for us is clear – we must develop an Influence Operations Strategy and President Obama must orchestrate its operations and tactics.

A small baby step in this direction would be to appoint a White House level coordinator along the lines of Howard Schmidt, the Cyber Coordinator. While Mr. Schmidt has no real authority he is a single point of contact and can act as a conductor to facilitate the performance of many players. Our global communications strategy deserves no less.

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