Sunday, January 17, 2010



Both Google and Beijing seem to be looking for a face-saving patch-up, which could enable Google to stay on in China if Beijing promises to undertake a review of its Internet censorship and security regulations, if not immediately, at least in the foreseeable future.

2.This is evident from the statements and comments emanating from both sides. A spokesperson of Google was reported to have told the Bloomberg news agency on January 16,2010, that it is operating business as usual in China, is still censoring search results on and its employees in China are still going to work. The Reuters news agency quoted Google's China office as saying that it would hold talks with the Chinese Government over the next few weeks.

3.The "Global Times", published by the party-owned "People's Daily" group, quoted Google as saying that its planned retreat from China is limited to, hinting that other services such as android phones and Gmail will not be affected. The "Global Times" further said: "A spokesman of the Google company who declined to be named said that Chinese users will possibly be able to continue using the search engine in Chinese through "The only thing we have announced is this: We will be talking to the Chinese authorities about the possibility of operating an uncensored search service within China. If it is impossible to operate an uncensored service within the law, we will close," said the spokesman. "We will obviously continue to offer Chinese-language search on our global search engine.Beyond that, we are making no announcements on any other aspect of our business."

4. An article carried by the " Global Times" on January 17,2010, under the title "Google-China split would be loss for both sides" said: "Google CEO Eric Schmidt had a famous "5,000-year plan" for China, "We will take a long-term view to win in China. The Chinese have 5,000 years of history. Google has 5,000 years of patience in China." Yet Schmidt's promised patience for developing in China seems to be fading away now. The company's "threat" to pull out of China amid concerns over censorship and cyber attacks has shocked the world and brought down Google's share price by 1.3 percent. The price dip reflects investors' worries over a huge potential business loss from the parting of ways. With its roughly 33.2 percent share of China's $1 billion search market in 2009, Google's possible exit would signal that it is giving up a booming Chinese market with 350 million Web surfers. Its strategic loss would be greater than its business loss. While other search engines, Chinese and foreign, would predictably grab a slice of the business abandoned by Google, the Internet giant's inability to localize and tackle difficulties in China would be an incalculable loss to its long-term commitment to innovation. Google's "New approach to China," as spelled out in the title of its recent statement, would do no good to China, either. Should the world's most populous nation fail to provide a foothold to the world's top search engine, it would imply a setback to China and serious loss to China's Net culture. The information highway demands not only safe driving but also free flow of traffic. And, in the interests of the majority's right to know, free flow of information should take precedence in a civil society. In a transitional society like China, the existence of censorship can be justified, as allowing full play to multifarious and disorderly search results poses unprecedented risks to vulnerable netizens and social stability. But the Government must face up to the challenge of where and how to put the checkpoints on the highway. A sensitive and shrewd Government should have the vision and savvy to place the right kind of checkpoints at the right place and at the right time for ensuring the free flow of highway traffic as much as possible in the public interest. When Google entered China's market about five years ago, it named itself "Gu Ge" (Grain Song) in Chinese. Google and China going their separate ways would hurt both sides. Let the song of sowing and expectation continue to be heard in China, for a win-win situation. "

5. In an editorial on the subject the next day, the "Global Times" said: "The world's top search engine needs to reflect on why it is lagging behind a local rival in China and why it is not getting as much support from Chinese Web users as it had expected. .....Technology and business should not be affected by political interests and diplomatic concerns. Though Chinese people have called for further steps to be taken by the Government to ensure free flow of information, it is always in their interest to have any foreign company operating in China abide by Chinese laws. Certainly, Google cannot be an exception. A split between Google and China will hurt both sides. And the Internet giant would lose further ground among its supporters if it is made a political football. Conciliatory negotiation may help in solving any issue. The West's arrogance will not work."

( 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: )



China has responded firmly but with balance to Google’s decision not to accept any more censorship on its search engines and its threat to review and, if left with no other alternative, to close down its operations in China if the censorship and the alleged State-sponsored web snooping continue.

2. The Chinese response has been to reiterate the right of the State to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of security and stability while avoiding any statement or action that might result in a break with Google, which could be bad for the international image of the country. At the same time, the Chinese have ruled out any major change in their Internet security policy just because of the threat held out by Google.

3. Jiang Yu, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that China’s policy would continue to be one of encouragement of an open Internet under proper regulations. She said: “The Internet is open in China, where the Government always encourages its development and has created a favorable environment for its healthy development. China, like other countries, will regulate the Internet industry in line with the law. China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law."

4.In a statement on its official blog site, David Drummond , Google's corporate development and chief legal officer, had said that the company intended to "review the feasibility of our business operations in China." According to him, its disputes with the Government and unidentified attacks targeting Google's services in China forced the company to make the review and possibly to "shut down" and potentially its China offices.

5. While reiterating the right of the State to impose reasonable restrictions, the Chinese authorities have strongly denied that Governmental agencies had any hand in cyber attacks on Google. The spokesperson of the Foreign Office pointed out that Chinese laws "prohibit hacker attacks in any form."

6.Wang Chen, Director of China's State Council Information Office, said on January 14,2010, in an interview to the “People’s Daily”: “China firmly opposes cyber attacks because China itself is a victim of such attacks. Every country needs to effectively regulate the Internet and to make sure their own problems on the web do not affect other countries. Internet security has become a significant problem that does not only involve China but also other countries."

7. Comments made by Chinese non-governmental analysts and Internet users make two points. Firstly, the decision of the Google’s executives to review the continuance of its operations in China appear to have been triggered off by its failure to make a commercial breakthrough in China after nearly four years of its operations in China and by its inability to face the competition of Chinese search engines, which continue to enjoy a monopoly of the Chinese market. Instead of admitting its commercial inadequacies, it has been trying to blame the alleged web censorship and snooping for its decision to review its future operations. They accuse Google of looking for moral scapegoats to cover up its commercial failure. In this connection, they point out that the so-called censorship regulations were there even in 2006 when Google entered the Chinese market. It did not find anything morally wrong with them at that time, but it has now, after its failure to break through in the local market, started talking of morality issues.

8. Secondly, they allege that Google has been guilty of double standards. They point out that there are regulations in the US prohibiting access to children to pornographic sites. Similarly, after 9/11, to prevent terrorists from having access to pictures and other information which could be useful for planning a terrorist strike, the US Government has been asking Google to remove certain photographs and other materials from the web. The Google found nothing wrong in such requests or instructions emanating from the US security agencies and carried out their wishes, but when Chinese agencies issue such instructions they are accused of misuse of authority and coming in the way of the free use of the Internet.

9. The Chinese are hoping that ultimately Google will realise that it had over-reacted to the difficulties faced by it in China and will decide to continue its operations in China in its long-term business interests. However, if Google sticks to its threat and decides to wind up its operations after the proposed review, the Chinese are prepared to face it. They are confident that any decision of Google to wind up will not have any impact on China’s relations with the US and on the confidence of international companies in the business environment in China.

( 17-1-10)

( 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: )