If you want to understand why China took such a hard stance on Google, listen to the lesson of Sun Tzu. Once, the great strategist held a military demonstration using palace concubines for soldiers. When the women didn’t take it seriously, he beheaded two of them. After that, the terrified concubines performed beautifully. “That’s the kind of historical tale that members of China’s Politburo absorbed while growing up,” writes Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times .
If China is trying to cut off Google’s head, it’s because it feels vulnerable and embarrassed. In general the Chinese people aren’t very political, but they’ve sided definitively with Google on this one—they want a free Internet. Like Taiwanese and South Korean middle classes before them, they feel stifled by one-party rule. Beijing’s harsh response reveals its big weakness: these days, it “neither inspires people nor terrifies them, but rather simply annoys them.”