A Different Kind of Freedom

The day before Hillary Clinton gave a speech last week about China's cyberattacks and its threat to the free flow of Internet information, the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal released their 16th annual Index of Economic Freedom, which ranks countries according to the ability of their citizens to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please. For the past 16 years, Hong Kong and Singapore have sat comfortably in the top two spots. Strikingly, though, neither state boasts a high level of political freedom; they're often rated on a par with countries like Morocco or Moldova by indexes of political independence, and Human Rights Watch recently called Singapore a "textbook example" of a repressive state.

While Clinton's speech had been scheduled before Google's announcement that it would stop censoring Chinese search results, she used the opportunity to prod Beijing on its restrictive Internet policies, warning it that censoring Internet access would wall China off from "the progress of the next century." Yet this may not be the case. China hopes to learn from Singapore and Hong Kong on how to eliminate poverty, protect the environment, and raise citizens' per capita income, all with minimal political liberalization. So far, China's Communist Party has managed to sustain heady economic growth without sacrificing its viselike grip on the Internet or political freedoms. If it can keep it up, it will show the West that progress can come not only from allowing freedoms but by controlling them.