Chinese leader googled self, got mad at Google?

WikiLeaks cables say that a Chinese politburo chief is stunned to discover that he can google his own name and find critical entries. Shortly afterward, several Chinese companies reportedly stop working with Google.

Every leader enjoys moments of revelation.

In the case of Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member Li Changchun, it seems that his came the moment he googled himself and discovered that some people might not appreciate him as he would have wished.

A New York Times report intimates that WikiLeaks cables reveal that Li was rather taken aback that he could put his own name in that helpful Google search box and, within a mere breath-length, up would pop entries that were not uniformly supportive of his politics or being.

The cables reportedly go on to suggest that once Li further googled not merely his own name but that of members of his family, he ordered three Chinese telecommunications companies to cease working with Google and went on to exert further pressures on the company.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Naturally, many will conclude that the seemingly uncontrollable essence of the Web is something that a controlled system such as China's finds threatening to its core. Google's eventual departure from China suggests that the principles of free search and free speech cannot co-exist with the principles of strong central control.

But if one tries to look at Li Chanchun's alleged Google Shock in something more than mere political terms, perhaps it also offers one of the human truths of leadership.

Leaders of any organization rise to their positions not merely because they want to win power. They rise because they want to enjoy the feeling that some might call admiration and others might even extend to embrace the idea of love.

For all the accusations of, for example, prickliness, hubris, arrogance, self-regard, callousness, venality, greed, and myopia that might be leveled at everyone from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates to Bill Clinton to Vladimir Putin, these people are often the last to know, or even to consider, that someone might actively dislike them.

When they are confronted by the realization, not one of them likes it. Not one of them blows it off without a single human emotion. They feel something. Something they really don't like.

If the WikiLeaked cables are accurate, they might well reflect the notion not merely that when a Chinese leader googled himself, he saw a threat to political hegemony. They might also offer an image of a human being who had rarely, if ever, confronted criticism to his face.

The written word is, apparently, going out of style. We are living, supposedly, in a world of images that affect, images that need to be manipulated in order to change their effect.

But there is still something jarring, something that makes people mad, about reading harsh words written in their own direction. That's why baseball managers never read the papers. Never. Really.

 

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