Google's love-hate relationship with China back on - CNET
It used to be that while Google wanted China, China really needed Google. Not any more. When Google shut down its Chinese search engine in , it gave up access to an enormous market. There are more than twice as many. A Chinese flag flies over the company logo outside the Google China headquarters in Beijing on January 14, (LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images).
Google was about one-fifth as large and valuable as it is today, and the Chinese internet was seen as a backwater of knockoff products that were devoid of innovation. Central to that decision by Google leadership was a bet that by serving the market—even with a censored product—they could broaden the horizons of Chinese users and nudge the Chinese internet toward greater openness. At first, Google appeared to be succeeding in that mission.
When Chinese users searched for censored content on google. China might be a promising market, but it was still dependent on Silicon Valley for talent, funding, and knowledge. Google wanted to be in China, the thinking went, but China needed Google. Baidu and other search engines in China soon followed suit. Over the next four years, Google China fought skirmishes on multiple fronts: The attack, which Google said came from within China, pushed company leadership over the edge.
Most Chinese internet users could go about their online lives with few reminders of government controls, but the Google announcement shoved cyberattacks and censorship into the spotlight.
Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China – Foreign Policy
The whole internet was abuzz with this. Government control of information was—and remains—central to Chinese Communist Party doctrine. China and its technology sector did not need Google search to succeed.
Google soon abandoned google. In response, the Chinese government decided not to fully block services like Gmail and Google Maps, and for a while it allowed sporadic access from the mainland to the Hong Kong search engine too. The two sides settled into a tense stalemate. Between andthere was an explosion of new products and companies.
Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China
Chinese engineers and entrepreneurs returning from Silicon Valley, including many former Googlers, were crucial to this dynamism, bringing world-class technical and entrepreneurial chops to markets insulated from their former employers in the US. Older companies like Baidu and Alibaba also grew quickly during these years. Inthe government launched a new crackdown on virtual private networks, software widely used for circumventing censorship. The Chinese government played contradictory roles in this process.
That confluence of forces brought results. Services like Meituan flourished. Amidst this home-grown success, the Chinese government decided to break the uneasy truce with Google. The Chinese government had pulled off an unexpected hat trick: AlphaGo your own way With the Chinese internet blossoming and the government not backing down, Google began to search for ways back into China.
Inrumors swirled that Google was close to bringing its Google Play app store back to China, pending Chinese government approval—but the promised app store never materialized. This was followed by a partnership with Mobvoi, a Chinese smart-watch maker founded by an ex-Google employee, to make voice search available on Android Wear in China.
Google China - Wikipedia
Google later invested in Mobvoi, its first direct investment in China since In Marchthere were reports that authorities would allow Google Scholar back in.
Last week, PEN America sent a detailed letter to Google executives spelling out specific human rights issues and subjects that, per Chinese censorship rules, would be treated repressively and deceptively by any information platform operating in the country. In demonstrating that a company as mighty as Google was unable to resist the allure of the Chinese market, despite the terms of entry, Beijing will advance its campaign to remake global internet governance on its own terms.
The utopian notion of an internet that unifies people across borders, fosters the unfettered flow of information, and allows truth and reason to triumph is already under attack on multiple fronts.
If Google is willing to play along with China, governments in Russia, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere will have little reason not to fortify their own measures to control content and opinion. At a time when even the U. Google first began offering a Chinese-language version of its search engine back in InGoogle launched a Google.
The company promised to tell mainland users when results were being withheld and to avoid offering services that would require housing confidential user data on Chinese servers. At the same time, native Chinese internet services such as Baidu and Tencent began to gain steam.
Chinese authorities were brazen in utilizing Western online services to surveil and track down dissenters. In a notorious incidentit was revealed that Yahoo had turned over private information about two journalists at the request of Chinese authorities, resulting in year prison sentences for the men and a global uproar at the spectacle of a U.
Inthe Chinese human rights scholar and activist Guo Quan threatened to sue Yahoo and Google for omitting his name from search results inside China.
He wrote in an open letter: That same year, the Chinese government punished Google, purportedly for failing to adequately screen out pornography, by limiting its reach and advantaging its leading local search competitor, Baidu.
In JanuaryGoogle issued a detailed statement declaring that it would stop censoring Chinese search results and was prepared to pull out of the market. It announced that the service had been targeted by attacks aimed at hacking the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights defenders and their supporters around the world.
The future upside seems nearly boundless.
With its vast and upwardly mobile rural population, growth rates in Chinese internet use far outpace any other market, with internet penetration rates still lagging well behind those of other G countries. Right behind the U. This theory conveniently dictated that even if, in the near term, companies such as Google were forced to jettison corporate values in order to take part in the market, that sacrifice could be justified over time since their very presence in China would steadily foster a loosening of constraints.
Whatever fleeting momentum might once have existed ground to a halt in with the ascent of President Xi Jinping, who ushered in a period of tightening, consolidating repression of free expression, press freedom, political dissent, protest rights, and other civil liberties. The premise of short-term trade-offs by Western companies in order to contribute to an inevitable long-range trend toward liberalization might been plausible when Google and others first entered China in the early s.
Beijing has created a set of rules and operating paradigms that are deeply entrenched, robustly enforced, almost universally adhered to, and scarcely challenged. The Chinese are constantly implementing new technological methods of surveillance and tracking, as well as enacting new laws that zip shut channels of dissent and methods of circumvention. The PEN America report states: This paradigm stands in direct opposition to the conception of an open internet that digital rights activists, human rights organizations, tech leaders, and even the United Nations have long espoused.
Yet Western CEOs hungry to enter the Chinese market have begun to moderate their public statementstacitly eliding the essential distinctions between an internet that is open and one that is government-controlled. For Chinese individuals who somehow cross the government, the prospect of being erased from existence on Google is a new and dehumanizing digital version of being declared stateless, persona non grata, or otherwise unworthy of the right to simply exist in the country in which you live.
An appendix to the PEN America report documents the cases of 80 Chinese citizens who have been targeted, detained, or prosecuted for online postings.
The prospect of Google helping to build cases against such courageous advocates is dire. When users are arrested and prosecuted for promulgating dissenting ideas in personal communications on Google, the company may play a role as a mandated purveyor of essential evidence to enable conviction.
Chinese government organs are estimated to issue thousands of separate censorship directives annually, charging all companies with compliance under threat of severe sanction or shutdown.