economics

March 25, 2010

Google and China Searching questions Google defies China’s censors and risks being blocked. Its woes send a chilling message

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,
MCDuncan wrote:
Mar 22nd 2010 11:22 GMT

When will people stop seeing this as entirely political and realize that China is blocking these sites in order to cement domestic businesses in the market? China has the ability and has used it in the past to block specific sites based on content, and it has blocked specific YouTube and Facebook sites since they went online. Yet only recently have they blocked such sites wholesale. The reason being because they were gaining market share against local competitors like Youku. The West needs to treat this as a trade war, and take it up at WTO.

Also, Google is could be doing this a lot better. They should not be simply lifting all censorship completely, they should only lift their political censorship. They need to censor all sex and pornography related searches, and they need to censor them very well, without any leaks. The reason being that to its own population, China’s government is telling them that the censoring is 99% concerned with censoring pornography and sexual things. Most regular Chinese I’ve spoken with agree that such things should be censored, and therefore support their government’s internet censorship. By censoring all pornographic things, but ceasing to censor all political and new related things, Google will make the Chinese government’s position one hundred times harder to defend against, at least to their own population.

Mar 22nd 2010 11:58 GMT

To many, Google’s decision to stop censoring search results is a praise-worthy act. But in reality it is more of a calculated business decision than a courageous move.

The apparent trigger of Google’s decision was cyber-attacks from China. Yet this hardly constitutes a reason for Google to stop cooperating with Chinese government. Not only there is no evidence suggesting the involvement of the Chinese government, there is even no conclusive proof showing attacks are originated from China, not that Chinese severs are hijacked by third parties.

Google claimed that Chinese government made its business difficult in China. The valid part is the censorship of political sensitive words. Other requirements, such as not to provide links to pornography and not to show copyrighted books, are very reasonable. If Google is OK with the Patriot Act in the US, why is it so hard for it to comply with Chinese local laws?

The actual motive of Google’s decision is probably its inability to compete with its Chinese rivalry Baidu. Unable to adapt to Chinese market and create services that Chinese want, Google has lost and is losing its market share in China. Further, after Google’s former China CEO, Kai-fu Lee resigned from Google in Sep 2009, Google no longer has the leadership and the confidence to survive in Chinese market. The alleged cyber-attack and China’s government’s censorship provided Google to graceful exit and a convenient excuse to its business failure.

Let’s recall the reason given by Google when it entered Chinese market and agreed to follow Chinese censorship laws: something is better than nothing. Google’s presence provided Chinese people more access to information than its absence. Yet Google has forgotten its words in front of the market reality. To Google, leaving China means less than 2% reduction of its revenue, but it gains more from the positive public relation. But Google’s departure only makes China’s Netscape more monotonic and isolated from the world. It helps to portray Google as a “don’t be evil” company, and make Google CEOs feel good, but has not positive impact on promoting freedom and openness in China.

Personally I am saddened by Google’s decision.

Goodbye, Google.

moonsigh wrote:
Mar 22nd 2010 11:56 GMT

as far as i see, Chinese prefer baidu to google, because of baidu encyclopedia, because of baidu music, because of baidu forum. trust me, people use google mostly for pornography, not politics.

Mar 22nd 2010 11:08 GMT

A bold and laudable move, and quite overdue. It was always hard to square “We are not evil” with the wholesale state censorship inflicted on an entire population. I doubt it will take long for the Chinese government to come down hard, but it’s a good fight to choose.

Mar 22nd 2010 11:22 GMT

Interesting how Google’s “all-in” is much less bold than what it wanted before. What happened to the end of negotiations and such… looks like business interests win out and Google is opting for a less critical approach of routing people to google.hk.

As I posted before on another Google article. I think the “right” and “wrong” of censorship should not be hinged upon the values of a certain country (aka. US). Being a country fairly liberal with censoring material and what are called “freedoms”, the US is in worse shape trying to control it’s own information tracks. The US is equally reprehensible for censorship (oops, sorry, it is called “national security”). Try not to be too jealous of China which is still able to have an effective government going.

All this fervor about Google is more fueled by foreigners than the country itself. The average citizen quite honestly doesn’t read good material such as the Economist or care about many of these hot issues as long as they can live their lives peacefully (please check out the US’s voting turnouts for proof).

I still stand that it is inevitable for China to eventually open the taps on information, but it will never do it suddenly. As long as the world leaves it alone, the process will happen more quickly. If the world insists on pushing China, it’ll be more reluctant. China wants to ease itself into the world, rushing into it will only cause the same problems the roarin’ 20s did for the US.

Mar 23rd 2010 12:08 GMT

To MCDuncan,

It’s untrue that Chinese government is censoring foreign websites to protect its domestic industry. Most of Chinese domestic websites are privately run and has no relation with the government. In fact, more domestic websites are shut down than foreign websites. The Chinese government’s regulation is largely based on the content, not the provider.

Mar 23rd 2010 12:58 GMT

Good move, Google.

Within a week, Google.hk will be blocked by the Chinese government.

In a way, Google’s departure from China seems not that much different from the blocking of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, unlike the other websites, Google has penetrated a significant portion of China’s population (some 33%) – and the demographics that matter. The vast majority of Google users in China are tech-savvy, educated, young, and professional. As someone who is generally quite supportive of many Chinese gov’t policies, I can safely say that forcing Google out of China is a terrible mistake for the Chinese government.

The people that are angered by the failed negotiation between the two parties are precisely the type of people that the Chinese government should try to appease. This is not a group of people you want to piss off, because they are most likely to get around government censors, and stir up political storms. Some 50 million critical-thinking souls who, up until today, probably supported government policies in everything from agricultural subsidies to African foreign policy. But this is the limit. You can do everything you want on the internet, but do not censor Google. One of these days you will reach the breaking point.

Let information be free.

China has the potential to become a very great power. But it cannot do so before its government learns to accept criticism from its citizens.



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