Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Google and China 

Got that news that Google had shut down their Chinese portal (google.cn) as of 3 o'clock this morning. All approaches to that site are automatically routed to Google Hong Kong (google.hk). Clever move. Technically, since Google only ever agreed to filter the Chinese site, not the others, and since they have now shut that site down, they are not in violation. China doesn't see it that way, and it remains to be seen how they will respond, but if they make a war out of this, I think they will lose.

What they cannot do:

  1. Shut down Google Hong Kong. Same country, different systems. The Beijing government has no authority to govern the Internet in Hong Kong.

  2. Force Google to implement filtering on Google Hong Kong. Again, same reason.

  3. Shut down Google.com (the main site), or other sites, such as google.ca, the one I usually use. These sites are not hosted in China, and China has no control over them.

What they can do.

  1. Block access to google.hk for Internet users on the mainland.

  2. Block access to one or more other Google sites (such as google.com or, perish the thought, Gmail).

  3. Force Google to shutter their other business efforts in China.

As I said, if the Chinese government decides to make a war out of this, I really think they will lose. There are getting to be more and more options for those who want to get around the great firewall of China. Had the tuna sandwich special with Zhou Tao at La Bamba this evening, and we were talking about this. One possibility he mentioned was virtual private servers.

Bottom line: China can cause trouble for Google, but not enough trouble to turn this around. Filtering is over. It's the price China paid for hacking Gmail. I don't say that the government of China ordered the recent attempt to hack the private email accounts of human rights activists. But there is strong evidence that they were at least complicit in that effort. Google has never felt comfortable about filtering search results. And they have taken a lot of criticism for it, mostly from people who don't live in China, and don't realize that only google.cn was filtered. The other Google sites (like www.google.com) were never filtered, and were all easily accessible from China. Nevertheless, Google had agreed to filter, and they didn't really have an easy way to backtrack as long as China was being so good to them. The hacking event gave them their chance. They are not afraid of what they might lose, because they know what they cannot lose. Google has been looking for an excuse to do this for a long time, and China unwisely gave it to them. The netizens of China will be the better for it.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?