Google is annoyed…pissed is probably an more appropriate description.
Some of my thoughts.
While their human rights dimension is probably smoke-screen whipped up for Western fans, Google is making a move that all companies would balk at…standing up to the CCP.
At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China." These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China
How I read it.
Google: “Enough is enough. Stop hacking our stuff”.
Regardless of the absence of altruism, I appreciate the back-bone, especially when the past few years have seen substantial increases (Green Dam, Olympic censorship, Facebook, Youtube, IMDB and Twitter) in the strength of government internet controls. Some one big needed to thrown the gauntlet down.
Still, doubt remains whether Google will follow through and pull the plug. However, they appear fairly adamant in their statement that the status quo is unacceptable. If they do, it’s big…huge.
Google Search, including all of their increasingly essential peripherals (Map, Scholar, Documents, Gmail, Calendar and anything else they have up their sleeve) will not be easily accessible in any form in a country with approximately 350 million internet users and growing. I feel awful for my friends (both local and expat) on the Mainland. The Mainland internet world is already incredibly restrictive and isolating sphere to live within and the absence of any form of Googling would create quite a incompatible internet experience. While there will always be ‘alternatives’ Google is becoming, or has already become (like it, or not) an essential cannot-do-without part of the internet.
If China wishes to continue on their road to global leadership, then it has to participate in the global conversation. Unfortunately for China, that international conversation means using Google. Without it, one may see development of a parallel internet community, increasingly cut off from the rest of the world in both in terms of internal accessibility (what one can accesses and use while in China) and external accessibility (what one can access about China from outside the Mainland). James Fallows calls it yet another move toward a Chinese version of a “Bush-Cheney” era. It fits with a “you are either with us, or against us” mentality that seems to be brewing harder (especially with continued economic confidence in regards to that country’s performance during the recession). I also wonder what this will do to China’s ambitions to become a world leader in IT. As an IT professional on shanghaiexpat.com forums lamented “Why do I continue working in this country?”
Interesting story and I’m keen to see it unfold further.
Photos from Google headquarters in Beijing.