On air: Google v China: Who is the winner?

Google’s been talking about leaving China since January when it became the victim of a cyber attack and discovered human rights activists’ email accounts had been hacked. Now it’s done it. Google is redirecting Chinese users to its unrestricted Hong Kong site.

Ever since Google entered China a few years ago, the debate over censorship and the internet has raged. Back then, Google argued the internet would help make China a more open society.

Although Chinese officials have condemned Google’s action, they say it shouldn’t affect their political relationship with America. But just a few days ago China said Google was a ‘pawn of the US government’ and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has previously criticised China for censoring.

Is Google making a big mistake? Since January Google’s stock price has declined 5%, while Baidu (BIDU), the leading search engine in China, has seen its stock price rise by 50%. Or if Google is championing human rights, is it worth it?

Could this leave Chinese internet users even more isolated than before. Some say it will create a ‘Chinternet’ or Chinese intranet.

Internet commentator, Lanpi, says: “The difference between google.cn and google.com.hk is like the distance between China and the world.”

With Google leaving China, who are the winners and who are the losers? Will it damage relations between the two countries? Has Google done the right thing or should it have continued to work with China?

45 Responses to “On air: Google v China: Who is the winner?”

  1. 1 Idris Dangalan
    March 23, 2010 at 11:52

    China won the game because redirecting user to google.hk is not a proper solution, Beijing preferred that than google.cn

  2. 2 Ibrahim in UK
    March 23, 2010 at 11:56

    Google created backdoor access to our email accounts specifically under the instruction of the US to allow them to snoop on our private communications. Now Google is crying “Freedom Freedom” when someone in China exploits this backdoor for their own snooping.
    Google is not an advocate for human rights, it is an advocate of free information for everyone, and that includes your own unvolunteered personal and private information too. As Google’s CEO said “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”.
    China’s restriction of freedom and Google’s over-indulgence with our freedom are making us all losers.

  3. 3 Cabe UK
    March 23, 2010 at 12:28

    Good that they Go! They were never going to be allowed to ‘operate’ freely in China anyway. Now, what could happen because of their departure ???? –

    1) The Chinese Government could have scored a ‘victory’ that will be short lived?
    2) The Chinese People are waking up to Freedom. They, especially the young have experienced the http://www.net and as much as the Government denies it, Google leaving Will cause unrest .
    3) China’s political power’s bid to rule the World – will need an audience! China cannot forever remain a closed society in a rapidly shrinking E-World. If they want a future in the World, then in the near future, they will Need to be back on the http://www.net just to keep up.
    4) Having an internal “Chinternet” would just be a longer-winded stepping stone to eventually going back to the http://www.net and no bad thing….
    6) Google leaving may in the long-run cause the Government there, more problems than it ever imagined regards personal freedom / truer knowledge of the World around them / social standing / and civil unrest etc, etc etc….
    7) – HEY ! This Could lead to a Revolution ! 😉

  4. 4 Nigel
    March 23, 2010 at 12:49

    The whole concept of win and lose is really an over simplification of this mess. The Chinese people lose by not having access to information but win because they stay whithin the laws of “their” country as outdated as they may be. The Chinese government will eventually win by cuting off access to the unregulated servers and Google will eventually lose economically and by deriving the people of the little that they had. In the East things happen slowly as people become comfortable with them and they realize that not everything will end today. In another five years China may very well have opened up a lot more and this Google move will turn out to be a big set back for the Web hungry young Chinese based on the Western for everything now.

  5. 5 Eric in France
    March 23, 2010 at 12:54

    Google is talking about freedom, but I think it is about business first. Google is trying to restore some of its reputation as more and more Google looks like big brother in gathering so much data on Internet users.

    The issue for Google is not the search engine in terms of freedom or not. The issue for Google is: would it be possible for Google to maintain its cash stream from its core business which is advertising?

    I do not see China as a looser which does not mean that it is a winner by a long shot. Google, I think, looks more and more pretentious giant believing that its Internet power allows it to dictate to a sovereign country how it should behave. So for the moment, I think it is 50-50 in terms of win or loose. I guess the only looser in the short term can only be Google if it advertising cash stream is crushed. The intelligent thing to do from China is impose its sovereignty over external companies like any country would do and stop all the GoogleAds data flow rather than censoring more than before the access to Internet. If not enough according to China’s laws, then the second step is the full stop on anything from Google.

    I heard in the news someone saying that Google leadership has been impulsive on their decision. Then, they are truly looser to think that China will nor move against them and just bend down.

    Finally, Google argues that they do so, because of supposed Chinese hackers who penetrate their systems, which raise the concern of security of Google’s systems. To accept that, should we then not be concerned as well by the active listening (spying) of all communications by the USA in Europe through the Echelon network? Even if one considers this as irrelevant, is it better to be spied on for marketing reasons? I think that this slight crisis does not tell us more about China, but reveals more about Google’s lack of concern for freedom. Loosing technology is more relevant than providing information to an emergent country.

  6. 6 T
    March 23, 2010 at 13:21

    There is none. Apparently Hillary forgot that the U.S. govt. continues to monitor all communications here (just like China does) in the name of “national security”.

    Like in many other things, it’s a matter of money, power. And who can outspin the other to maintain that money and power.

    • 7 Halima
      March 23, 2010 at 20:14

      The difference is that China actively blocks anything that might possibly present a mere difference of opinion with the CP. The US does no such thing.

    • 8 mark
      March 24, 2010 at 10:29

      they may monitor communications but at least they allow access to all info on the net , not blocking ugly or unflattering episodes in americas history

      slavery, vietnam, the illegal occupation of central american countries

      CIA involvement in various coups around the world, its all there to see

      good and bad

      china is hiding the truth

      it may be small but its a start, more countries / corporations should stand up to all dictatorships wherever they are

  7. 9 gary indiana
    March 23, 2010 at 13:41

    All have lost. Lack of honest (free) communication stifles learning and understanding for everyone. Our mutual Ignorance has no positive outcomes.

  8. 10 Henry
    March 23, 2010 at 14:00

    Not abiding by the laws of other country, Google seems to lose out. Google should not assume that all countries’ society is the same as that of the US. China’s society is an example. China knows what is best for its peoples. At this stage, it looks like Internet censorship is still necessary in China.

    • 11 jens
      March 23, 2010 at 18:37

      how can cersorship be the best for chinas population. censorship is only ever in the interest of the pople who want to suppress information, rather than the people who would like to have access to information.

    • 12 Halima
      March 23, 2010 at 20:16

      When you say “China knows….” do you mean the communist party knows what is best for it – as opposed to what is best for China. I do not think censorship is good for China. internet or otherwise.

  9. 13 Subhash C Mehta
    March 23, 2010 at 14:10

    China takes whatever it wants, and gives nothing that it doesn’t want to; the rest of the world rants, frets and fumes, and then gives in. I don’t understand why the western world allowed itself to be so much dependent upon the Chinese manufacturing/products that they now find themselves trapped; they neither can get an easy release from the economic stranglehold nor can have any free and just say on any point/issue that China disputes or rejects. The Google is just one of many such (economic) and other (political) cases; I think it must leave China, after having been subjected to so much unjust interference and humiliation.

    March 23, 2010 at 14:42

    From this latest move by google, one can clearly see that they were not in China for profit. They must have been there for something else that continue to emerge in between the talk back that dominates them and the Chinese govt.
    It would be foolhardy for google that the Chinese do not know what they are trying to prevent but they do. The other aspect of google that is not convincing is how the know who human-right activists are – they do not care about the rest of the market apart for a small clique in a communist country – why?
    In a free-market globe why is google only thinking of how to civilize Chinese – oh they very worried about this. I do not care about the Chinese search engine due to association with the state – google despite its brinkmanship is sinking in the same club of ‘political company’ rather than market drive.

  11. 15 patti in cape coral
    March 23, 2010 at 15:00

    I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like there were any winners.

  12. 16 Roy, Washington DC
    March 23, 2010 at 15:15

    If Google can put pressure on the Chinese government to stop its censorship, hopefully the people of China will end up as the winners.

  13. 17 seaAdamwestiii
    March 23, 2010 at 15:58

    China, a sovereign nation, has their own laws and Google must abide by them, or leave the country. I don’t believe the system will be damaged by Google leaving. I’m sure many things initiated by our own government and Google is prohibited from making it public. Afterall, of recent, our media has been more supportive of our government than providing government information to the public.

    • 18 Halima
      March 23, 2010 at 20:19

      But the Internet cannot be regarded as a sole nation entity. It has to be free over all the world. China’s censorship only serves to cut it off from the rest of the world in an unhealthy way. Remember it is the Communist Party that is trying to protect its position as the only power in China – this is not for the benefit of China as a whole. Censorship in China is akin to corrupt politicians looking out for themselves in other countries.

  14. 19 T
    March 23, 2010 at 16:08

    There are several creidble sources that say that Google has been working with the NSA (National Security Agency) for years.

  15. 20 Jaime Saldarriaga
    March 23, 2010 at 17:23

    I dont think there is a winner, I think there is a loser: The people.

  16. 21 Kweku
    March 23, 2010 at 17:27

    Winners and Losers?

    There was no winner when google first entered China. Lets not forget Google is in China for business reasons as any other western corporation. As much as google talks of principles now, they watered down their own principles when they first agreed with the chinese government on their terms of operation. By that very decision, they lost some of that sheen, and free access to information that makes people outside mainland China regularly use their search engine. The very thing that may have well given them a significant market share in a competitive chinese environment…
    I agree with some who share the view that it is not going to hurt their profits now since Baidu was the bigger player in China anyway. If google is really that offended, they should also remove their research facilities etc, from China, redirecting their Chinese search portal through HongKong seems more like a small gesture.. The Chinese Government is not going to give in…not now anyway, they understand too well the ramifications if they do. Google should have stayed, and used their product, like all the other successful western companies operating in China, to win people over even if it is a slow process.

    The Chinese people on the mainland can still be blocked from accessing the sites by the government even if redirected via Hong Kong.
    This shows how difficult it is to marry humanitarian values with certain aspects of business and capitalism…

  17. 22 taratate
    March 23, 2010 at 17:33

    @ Ibriham
    As Google’s CEO said “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”.

    That is the worst possible justification……………Maybe in a (assumed) Democratic environment, there is a reason it is called a private life!

    • 23 jens
      March 23, 2010 at 18:45

      well, i beg to differ. if you plan an illegal activity you have no reasonable cause to do so in anonimity. how else does surveilance work. what many for get that there is an overwhealming amount of electronic files generated every millisecond. in such a data stream it is impossible to surveil everybody, but to aim for keywords.

      i find it always amusing how people demand a private life while blogging, e-mailin, use cell phones, credi cards etc. our lives are more transparent these days than ever before

  18. 24 esce
    March 23, 2010 at 17:34

    Google wants China to open up so that separatist based in US can stir up unrest and dissidents can push their agenda as well as as their US masters’ . china will them be weaken and US will still be the top dog and hundreds of million of chinese will go back to living in poverty. the imperialist will still rule. the chinese will really loose their human rights . what so great about freedom while living in poverty.

    • 25 Halima
      March 23, 2010 at 20:22

      Google would like China to open up so it will be open – that brings as always both good and bad. But continued openness is, on the whole, more healthy politically and economically than remaining closed. Chinese have very few human rights to lose and many many more to gain by having more complete access to information. At the moment, they are subject to CP propaganda only which benefits the power structure of the communist party, NOT the Chinese people.

  19. 26 steve
    March 23, 2010 at 17:41

    What is China so afraid of? Esce seems concerned with the human rights of Chinese people, but wasn’t Mao and his policies responsible for the deaths of millions and millions of Chinese?

    • 27 Ronald Almeida
      March 25, 2010 at 16:01

      I think what the Chinese are afraid of is that all their citizens will become mindless clones and Uncle Sams lackeys.

  20. 28 Elias
    March 23, 2010 at 17:47

    Google is big and strong enough to withstand restricions from China, and is doing what it feel right for the sake of its website. China on the other hand is a dictatorship and will crush any opposition from within and without regardless of world opinion. They intend to rule with a firm hand and will not accept any opposition to their power.

  21. March 23, 2010 at 17:57

    Freedom of speech is an extremely important right. In this day and age No government has the right to throttle its citizens. Freedom to information is an intrinsic human right.; Google is absolutely right in standing its ground China by restricting and gagging its citizens is not moving with the times! This is extremely sad. By moving to Hong Kong, Google has taken a wise decision.

  22. 30 Frank in Nantucket
    March 23, 2010 at 18:07

    It doesn’t matter who ‘won’ it matters who lost, and that would be the people of China.

  23. 31 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    March 23, 2010 at 18:27

    If China wants to achieve a dominate position in world affairs it is obviously the big loser regarding Google’s decision. Innovative science and technology can not florish in an environment that starves science, technology, innovation and creative thinking of information and leaves them effectively brain-dead.

    By filtering the internet, the Chinese authorities think they might be able to block information that could cause social or political unrest. Maybe they can, but they also filter out the information, the all important clues and Eureka moments, that lead to true innovation, creativity and break throughs.

    The Chinese authorities can block the free flow of information and remain a nation of manufacturers who are slow to innovate, or they can open up to freedom information that leads to freedom of innovation.

    They can’t have it both ways, and I congratulate Google for having understood the oxymoron of a roadblocked information superhighway.

  24. 32 Jeremy
    March 23, 2010 at 18:28

    It may not be a commercial decision to move the search to Hong Kong, but it is a commercial decision to keep research facilities on mainland China. Google still wants access to the tech and information they can get from the Chinese, and they are no doubt putting money into the Chinese economy in order to do so.

    We all know the censorship isn’t stopped. If Google really wanted to make a strong statement they’d pull out all together, but this is just a dog and pony show with no REAL significance.

  25. 33 Tom D Ford
    March 23, 2010 at 18:32

    Someone talked about “freedom of speech”, but in my opinion the issue here is “freedom to listen”, or “freedom to see and read”.

    Well OK, maybe it is both. One “freedom” is not worth much without the other.

  26. 34 Alan in AZ
    March 23, 2010 at 18:52

    The Chinese people are the losers of knowledge that is slowly being removed or limited. Even with 400 million internet users, they will slowly fall behind the rest of the world in knowledge on subsequently power as a people!

  27. 35 Pattie
    March 23, 2010 at 19:06

    Access to the Internet is not a human right. But, the right of free speech, freedom of association and the right to petition the government to address a grievance of an injustice are all human rights. It matters not the medium used whether on a soap box in Times Square or on the world wide net.

  28. 36 tekkooo
    March 23, 2010 at 19:54

    I believe that both Google and the Chinese people have lost, Google will lose a lucrative growing market and the Chinese people a fantastic service.
    China has come a long way and has changed and is changing. Trying to change China in a hurry is going to be harmful to china, the Chinese people and to the world. China is moving prudently on its on pace for change, putting a catalyst to expedite that change is dangerous and is not going to work.
    Let the cat and mouse gane continue. That is the only way that is going to work at the end —the right way.

  29. 37 CJ McAuley
    March 23, 2010 at 19:57

    Good on Google! For although they may have made more money by continuing to allow China’s government censorship of searches, they have decided they have enough money and market-share. It is indeed a welcome sign for the future of the net and just maybe more private companies will follow their lead. For as much as freedom of speech should be a human right, so should be freedom of access to information in 2010!

  30. March 23, 2010 at 20:22

    it easy to quickly jump into the bandwagon and vilify the chinese authorities on this issue, but aren’t we forgeting the sovereign right of a nation to determine for itself it’s own values.in an not so extremist view, i think every nation should be accorded the right and respect of making it’s own choices irrespective of what our picture of the ideal world is. china is simply choosing for itself what it requires to function in the present age, without a wholesome loss of it’s unique identity: something many other nations have lost in trying to be politically correct with others.

  31. March 23, 2010 at 21:02

    It’s clear that the winner is the Chinese government but surprisingly enough, the biggest loser is not Google as deemed, but rather the Chinese people in search of information.

  32. 40 Wang Yiwei
    March 23, 2010 at 21:46

    I don’t think there is winner or loser between China and Google. The real loser is the human dignity when states (China, US or EU) are trading universal human rights (that have been agreed by most of the nations in UN) as a commercial item.

    Technically, the elimination of the domain name (google.cn) does not mean much for the local Chinese users. The search results of google,cn is self-censored by the Google China office according to their own research: it only shows the results that can be accessed from inside China. If you use another google site (e.g. google.us), the search results are not censored, but a user inside China will find many links inaccessible. The symptom is that the local ISP will cut the link between a user’s PC to the forbidden site for a couple of minutes. And Google’s other services (youtube, picasa sites) have been blocked long before today anyway.

    As a single technology company, Google’s decision is brave. It shows commercial operation can be conducted with principles. Being a Chinese citizen, I can recognise the difference between my people and the unelected authority. Google’s decision is against the illegal censorship from the illegitimate authority. I hope people all over the world would be able to see this difference and reward Google in many ways.

    To trade with a totalitarian regime might bring temporary profit. But in the long run, it will cost a nation’s morale and eventually its own economy. One only needs to see consequence of outsourcing trend to get this conclusion.

  33. 41 Ronald Almeida
    March 24, 2010 at 00:53

    I suppose Google is bound to win having the majority on its side.
    That of course does not make it right, it just proves might.

  34. 42 a1142730
    March 24, 2010 at 02:14

    The biggest loser will surely be Chinese people in the long run. The Chinese internet users will be further isolated from the rest of the world by Google’s leaving. The bottom line of the Chinese communist party is to keep in power in China by whatever means it may take which includes zero tolerance on freedom to information. But Chinese people will eventually have to suffer the consequences of being brainwashed from time to time.

  35. 43 eSCe
    March 24, 2010 at 03:00

    Inevitably those who wants china to open up are people who wants to criticise china from outside china. Inside china , chinese freely criticise their government and are stopped only when it becomes destablising. Google china blog and you can get translated views of china’s net citizens. If radicals muslims uses the internet to recruit terrorists , would it be wrong to censor such sites.

  36. 44 Merlin in China
    March 24, 2010 at 04:16

    Google wins. By standing up to this gangster regime, Google is speaking for millions of brutally oppressed Chinese netizens who hate censorship and long for freedom of speech. Right now, principles are way more important than revenues. Hope more internet companies will join Google’s fight which is both political and economic and concerns all of us.

  37. March 24, 2010 at 04:27

    I was disappointed when Google went to China to do business. And I am pleased that they are leaving. Everyone there knows why Google packed up, and I like that. It is a finger right in the eye to the oppressors and control freaks in China.

    Google didn’t leave because of blocked searches… they left because the Government of China was trying to hack into email accounts. Google says “If you are going to do that, we are going to do this (stop censoring the searches for bad words),” and the party was over.

    Google won.

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