The Chinese Government has quietly put Google and President Barack Obama in their place.
2. In January this year, Google had expressed its intention to review its presence in China if the Chinese Government continued to insist that its search engines should black out items and web sites of political dissidents. It also protested against the alleged snooping of the e-mail addresses of Tibetan and other separatist elements using the Google mail service by the Chinese authorities.
3. The Chinese authorities, while regretting the decision of Google, had pointed out that the restrictions imposed in the interest of national security by the Chinese Government were in force even when Google entered the Chinese market. They looked upon the move of Google for a so-called review as politically motivated without any legal justification and made it clear that Google was welcome to continue to function in China provided it observed the Chinese regulations relating to the Internet. They rejected with indignation Google’s allegations of cyber snooping by Beijing.
4. Members of the Obama Administration, including Mrs.Hilary Clinton, the Secretary of State, came out in support of Google, but this did not have any effect on Beijing. Since then there has been a stalemate with neither Google nor the Chinese Government making any further move in the matter.
5. In the latest development, the Chinese authorities have strongly denied that any talks on the issues raised by Google were going on with its officials. They have bluntly made it clear that while they would be happy if Google decided to continue in China and observe its Internet regulations, they would be equally happy to facilitate its exit from the Chinese market if it wanted to quit.
6.The “China Daily” reported as follows on March 6,2010: “China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology refuted that China has been involved in any negotiations with Google since the US search engine threatened on January 21 to pull back from the country."We have yet to have any direct contacts or negotiations with them on this topic," said Miao Wei, vice-minister of the MIIT, at the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress. Google had never filed reports over alleged Internet regulations and cyber attacks to the ministry or requested for negotiations, said Miao. It had also never informed the ministry that it was planning to withdraw from China. He said China respects Google's right to decide whether to continue its business in the country. "If Google decides to continue its business in China and abides by China's laws, it's welcome to stay," Miao said. "If the company chooses to withdraw from the Chinese market, it must go through certain procedures according to the law and regulations and deal with customers' problems that may arise." Miao also said he didn't think the Google incident should affect relations between China and the US."It's not a huge problem that should impact the relationship of two countries," he said. He said China doesn't want to see an Internet technical incident upgraded to a political dispute.He also said China welcomes Google to provide further information about the hacker attacks it claimed. "We will definitely investigate on the issue, because we are the victims of hackers too."Google had studied China's laws and regulations before it entered the Chinese market in 2007 and had pledged in written form to abide by the laws and regulations.”
7.The Chinese have similarly put Obama in his place over his decisions to sell a fresh package of arms to Taiwan and to receive His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the White House last month. The Chinese had initially reacted strongly against these decisions and announced the postponement of exchanges of military level visits between the two countries over the Taiwan issue. They had also threatened to impose sanctions against US companies selling military equipment to Taiwan under the proposed package. They have since played down these threats and permitted the US naval ship USS Nimitz to visit Hong Kong.
8. On Tibet, they had strongly criticised the Mr.Obama's meeting with His Holiness, but refrained from openly threatening any retaliatory action. However, Chinese officials were spreading word that President Hu Jintao may not attend the Nuclear Security Summit to be held in the US next month to which Obama attaches considerable importance to express Beijing's unhappiness over the sale of arms to Taiwan and over the meeting with His Holiness.
9.Chinese sources see a link between the speculation about a likely boycott of the nuclear security summit by Mr.Hu Jintao and Mr.Obama's decision to send Mr.James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State, and Mr.Jeffrey Bader , a White House aide, to Beijing last week reportedly to remove misunderstandings arising from the decisions to sell more arms to Taiwan and to receive His Holiness. The visiting US officials were reported to have reassured their Chinese interlocutors that Mr.Obama's decisions did not mean any change in the US position on the one-China policy and that Tibet was an integral part of China
10. Commenting on the visit of the two officials to Beijing, Mr.Philip Crowley, a State Department spokesman, said on March 4,2010, that the US and China "agreed on the high importance each attaches to the relationships and their commitment to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship." He added that the US responded to China's concerns on Taiwan "by reiterating that it has followed a consistent approach, pursued by both administrations of both political parties, on a 'One China' policy."
11. Briefing the media in Beijing, Qin Gang, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that the US had agreed to "take China's position seriously, honor China's core interests and major concerns" and to act to improve relations. Mr. Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, also commented on the relations with the US while briefing the media on March 7,2010, on China’s foreign policy in the margins of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the Chinese Parliament, being held since March 5,2010. He urged the US to take seriously China's position and respect China's core interests and major concerns with credible steps.
12. He added: "The United States should properly handle relevant sensitive issues and work with the Chinese side to return the China-US relationship to the track of stable development. The China-US relationship had a good start after President Obama took office last year. However, the US arms sales to Taiwan and the US leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama caused a serious disturbance to the China-US ties and posed difficulty to the cooperation between the two countries. Such a situation is not in the interest of either side, and the responsibility for the difficulty in Sino-US relations does not lie with China."
13. Referring to the talks with the two visiting US officials, he said: “"The Chinese side stated in full its principled position on China-US relations and on major issues, including Taiwan and Tibet related issues. We pointed out that the relevant moves taken by the US side had seriously violated the principles set out in the three China-US joint communiques and the China-US joint statement. The moves undermined China's core interests and the overall interests of China-US relations, and China is firmly opposed to these moves."
14. While the US has thus taken the initiative to cool the bilateral tensions by reassuring Beijing that there has been no change in its one-China policy and on Tibet being an integral part of China, it is not yet clear whether the Chinese are sufficiently satisfied by the US assurances and whether President Hu will attend the nuclear security summit. (8-3-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )