This morning, Google is rumored to walk out of China after failure of negotiation with the local government.
It is interesting to compare the reasoning of the two parties concerned. Google is putting forward freedom of information, which, according to the views held by many, has been the driving force of human civilization. China is referring to the "stability of society" as the reason for needing censorship, which, while having a practical significance for those concerned (for those in the power, that is), do not have a comparable stronghold as freedom of information in the history of human civilization.
It is interesting that, whenever such confrontations arise, it appears that one party has a clear, explicit statements of the principles involved, while the other, while being equally obstinate, can cite only practical and ad hoc reasons to support their particular actions and choices.
Having born and been bought up in Tokyo, I know from my own experiences that going back to the first principles is not the practice of many people. I was trained as a physicist, and a physicist always does that--going back to the first principles. And yet, even before studying physics seriously, I was in favor of the first principles approach as a kid, while my friends were not necessarily so.
In my view, the confrontation between Google and China is not simply a question of different cultures, where "different cultures" suggest some sort of symmetry between two equally valuable oddities. It is rather, from my own viewpoint, the question of whether one stands by and consider it desirable to always come back to the first principles of civilization.
It has always been a puzzler for me why some people don't care about the first principles and go about in life following only practical interests. Since I am so accustomed to that particular aspect of human nature, I am not at all surprised by the actions of the Chinese government. I am just intrigued, and go on following my own instinct, rather enjoying the minority status that comes with that attitude.