It was a bold move by Google, to declare it no longer intended to censor content on Google.cn . But a move that was hedged with an offer to negotiate with the Chinese government a process for getting it done. From the looks of it, the Chinese government isn’t in the mood to negotiate. It’s issued, in veiled terms, a double-dog dare to Google: do it . And as soon as you do we'll shut you down.
Google’s move was spurred by a highly sophisticated cyber-attack on it, and a number of other companies, that originated in China. One target of the cyber-attack was the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google initially went against its corporate ethos is agreeing to censor when it set up Google.cn, but the subsequent cyber-attacks looks to have forced Google to rethink its digression.
The response from China? “The Chinese government administers the Internet according to the law and we have explicit stipulations over what content can be spread on the Internet,” said Jiang Yu, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry. And Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office said, “Effective guidance of public opinion on the Internet is an important way of protecting the security of online information.” In plain-speak: We like censorship. Censorship is the law. Violate the law and you’ll be punished.
Huang Jing, a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, said, “The Chinese government may want to give Google’s high-profile move the cold shoulder. Given the reason Google cited in its announcement--that Google.cn can no longer put up with Beijing’s censorship--the CCP leaders are afraid that it could set a dangerous political precedent should they compromise on this one.”
Google’s only other option would be to walk away from the Chinese market, something Google says it is prepared to do. At present that wouldn’t be much of a hit to Google’s bottom-line-- it is reported to have earned $350 million in China in 2010 , or about 1.5 percent of its total revenue. The future, however, is another matter.
Image Credit: Google