Google Shuts its Chinese Search Engine

Google vs ChinaGoogle has carried out its threat to shut down the Google.cn search engine following its censorship dispute with the Chinese Government. All users are now redirected to the Hong Kong-based Google.com.hk. Although Hong Kong is part of China, it retains a level of independence and its search engine delivers uncensored results.

Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, stated:

The Chinese Government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced. It is entirely legal.

The US Government backed Google and expressed disappointment that an American company was forced into taking such drastic measures.

The Chinese Government immediately criticized the company and accused them of violating the terms agreed when the search engine was launched in 2006. A spokesman for the State Council Information Office said:

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.

Google threatened to quit China in January 2010 following sophisticated attacks on their corporate infrastructure which originated from within the country. The hackers were believed to be targeting GMail accounts owned by human rights activists. Google announced they were no longer willing to censor results and have been in talks with the Chinese Government since that time.

Google has not pulled out of China altogether and retains their 700 research, development, and sales staff. Does this highlight a conflict of interest within company? On one hand, Google has its moralistic “do no evil” stance against oppression and censorship. On the other, they are a commercial operation in a country with 400 million internet users, a population of 1.3 billion, and the world’s fastest growing economy.

In my opinion, Google has a simple choice:

  1. It can trade in any country it chooses — as long as it abides with local regulations.
  2. If those regulations are utterly abhorrent to the company, it should not be there.

Perhaps that’s too simplistic, but Google appears to be making considerable amount of money within a regime they openly despise. However, I suspect it won’t last long — the great Firewall of China could come online at any moment.

What do you think? Should Google quit China? Should they continue to work within the country? Could they change China’s human rights policies when so many others have failed?

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  • Azadi

    >> Although Hong Kong is part of China, it retains a level of independence and its search engine delivers uncensored results.

    wrong. it is censored. now. http://bit.ly/aY66d1

  • Daphne leonard

    I cant imagine that happening to the US.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Wow. My comment about it being firewalled at any moment was even quicker than I expected!

  • wth

    China has 1.3 billion people, not 400 mililon.

  • markmarks

    “Great Firewall of China” …that’s a good one. I support Google’s decision a hundred percent. I really admire how they respect freedom in the internet, and it’s I guess the reason everyone loves Google. Having censorship in this age, and on a national level is insane. I really thought China knew better, and would eventually get it. My miss, this was cool…

    http://ketiva.com/Computers_and_Internet/google_divides_web_users_by_leaving_china.html

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @wth
    Whoops – I missed a word which changed the whole context. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ve changed the article accordingly.

  • D

    Google are trying tohave their cake and eat it too. As you said, they are trading within a regime that they pay lipservice to opposing whilst filling their banks with the profits.

    Poor move Google, if you want out of China on political grounds then leave, don’t kick up this fuss and then quietly take your slice of the market.

  • Dapeng

    This is a lose-lose

  • Anonymous

    Poor move Google, if you want out of China on political grounds then leave, don’t kick up this fuss and then quietly take your slice of the market.

    Agree 100%. This is totally legal as Google says, just like I can host pornography and a Chinese citizen could potentially visit it (or anywhere else where that content is not allowed; not my fault). The problem is that Google is saying ‘We’ll do what we want in any country regardless of the regime’ and in doing so, they also represent American corporate thought as they are obviously one of the largest.

    I do not think what the hackers did was right and I do not support censorship, but China does support censorship and that’s how it is for now (and probably not changing any time soon). You want to do business there, you follow the rules. I do not see why this is so difficult to understand.

    Google.com.hk blocked in China not too long from now?

  • leon.nk

    I know the Chinese government is all “bad”, trying to block free-speech and all that jazz. But this is the internet we’re talking about, and where’s there’s a will there’s a way. Surely the people of China can use proxy servers to get filtered content through. Think of the battle with music piracy, the amount of sites shutdown and yet it still goes on.
    I just think the people of China, in general, favour the government’s stance on all this. If everyone did put enough effort to get around it then it would be too difficult to block in the first place. Fair enough they may not have a choice, but at the same time who are we to choose for them?

  • chaoszvvz

    It’s lucky I still can visit google.com.

  • http://www.xguides.net Dakota G

    I’m sure Google isn’t the only company that will come under fire from the Chinese gov’t within the next few months. It’s quite unfortunate that a company has to become involved in the political affairs of a foreign country, and even more unfortunate that the Chinese people have to live with national censorship.

  • http://mingz-online.com mingz

    To those who think Google’s quit of China is solely because of censorship: you are wrong. Google has been in China for more than 10 years, and it chose to obey the censorship rule in last 10+ years, so why it starts to refuse the censorship now?

    Because of Cyber attacks? They are nothing new too. These attacks have existed for a long time already. Google chose to cooperate previously.

    The real reason for the quit is Google’s incapacity to compete with Baidu in China. Google’s only got 22% of search market share in China. Don’t forget Google is a for-profit company. It runs for money, not for advocating the meaning of freedom – otherwise it should choose to quit long time ago, not now, after 10+ years.

    Living in Australia, I heard our government would implement firewall as a filter as well. Let’s see whether Google will quit Australia as well.

  • loganathan

    China should allow google to do his freedom .. but google is not good

  • Len

    If I had cake I would want to eat it. What is wrong with having cake and then eating it. I really wish I had some cake now. Damn it.

  • W2ttsy

    i dont see why they should be forced to sack 700 workers as a result of them dropping service support in a country. Those employees could be working on any number of technologies, and just because a product has been removed, doesnt mean the employees need to go with it.

    At the end of the day, if google really wants out, then they can just pick up there entire operation and move it to another country. China should be lucky that through all this google is still contributing to their growing workforce.

  • http://htmlblox.com samanime

    It’s also to those 700 employees that Google keeps them employed. I’m sure they have excellent pay (at least by Chinese standards) and wouldn’t want to lose that.

  • freeranger

    @mingz problem is a 22% market share in internet dollars is quite a bit and certainly nothing to sneeze at. 5% or less? well sure i could see google pulling out b/c of the competition, but not 22%.

  • http://mingz-online.com mingz

    @freeranger: But Google China spent only slightly less money than its competitor who’s got 70% market share.

  • Antti Aapakari

    I don’t blame Google. They had to put up with numerous cyberattacks and then on top of that had the government demanding more and more censorship. Bravo to them for standing up for what’s right.

    Antti