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[liberationtech] NEWS: Google to China -- Your Move

Yosem Companys companys at
Wed Mar 24 09:39:27 PDT 2010

Good Morning Silicon Valley

Google to China: Your move

By JOHN MURRELL <jmurrell at>

*Well played, Google*, or in pool table terms, nice leave. From the start,
the Google-China stare-down held no hope of compromise (see "Outlook for
Google’s China talks: nasty, brutish and
so the question became which side would succeed in framing the conflict and
its consequences: Google, with its focus on censorship, or China,
maintaining that all businesses are obliged to follow local laws.

Monday, by simply redirecting to its unfiltered Hong Kong
Google pulled off an elegant combination

* It followed through on its pledge to stop delivering a censored search
service to China.

* It made China's local-laws argument moot by moving the service to a
different jurisdiction.

* It left the Chinese government to take direct responsibility for further

* It provided an avenue to keep its traffic from within China flowing.

* It avoided the perception of having abandoned China by continuing to offer
search and by retaining its other business operations in the country.

The people of China still won't see the same Internet as the rest of us. The
searches they run through will display uncensored results,
but the Great Firewall will still block
clicking through to sites the authorities don't want them to see. But at
least it will be clearer to Chinese users what is being kept from them and
who is doing the censoring.

As Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the New York
however, "The story’s not over yet." China may yet cut off or otherwise
restrict access to the Hong Kong servers or take other steps that would
interfere with Google's businesses. In 2½ months of negotiations, Brin said,
the company never could get a straight answer from China as to whether the
Hong Kong redirection was an acceptable option. "There was a sense that Hong
Kong was the right step,” he said. "There’s a lot of lack of clarity. Our
hope is that the newly begun Hong Kong service will continue to be available
in mainland China." And just so the world can see what the Chinese
authorities are up to, Google has posted a page with a daily
which of its services are open, blocked or partially blocked for mainland

Meanwhile, China's official reaction bounced between anger and efforts to
downplay the significance of the dispute. "Google has violated its written
promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its
searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker
attacks," said an official with the State Council Information
"This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization
of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google
for its unreasonable accusations and conducts." At the Foreign
Ministry, spokesman
Qin Gang said<>,
"I cannot see an impact on China-US relations unless someone wants to
politicize that. I cannot see any impact on China's international image
unless someone wants to make an issue of it. It is not China who has
undermined its image, it is Google."

That may be the party line, but the fact is that Google, with one simple and
efficient stroke, has left China in a position where it has no legal
argument to hide behind and, if it's intent on keeping its citizens in the
dark, no choice but to appear as the bad guy in front of one and all.
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