Google Bomb – They’ve finally had it…

By Bryan • china • 14 Jan 2010

google I can’t get enough.  I’ve only been watching China for about 7 years (not too long) but I’ve never come across a shaking story like this. 

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.

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5 Responses

  1. Deware

    Hey all, this is good news, period.
    Google isn’t the only one to have it, and their move will do much dammage to business and foreign investment.
    Google leaving would be a bomb in terms of public relation, and will push self called “china analyst:, who actually haven’t seen that one coming, to stop pushing down the public throat the china hype.
    This will also lead foreign companies to think twice about investing for years with no ROI in China.
    Lastly, small companies, including mine located in Shanghai, are really starting to wonder if china is worth the pain.
    Exporation are down to an incredible level, despite what the news pundit try to make us belive, and business condition are becoming nightmarish.
    For custom arrasment to withdrawal of business visa issuance for the olympique game and teh PC anniversaries, it is starting to become troublesome for foreign companies to do business over here, not mentionning the fact that so many expats are leaving and not coming back.

    Well done google, you definitly have one new customer for the android mobile.

    • I remember the visa restrictions going into place during the build-up to the Olympics. There were also very tight restrictions placed on student visas as well. I was in Irkustsk and I met this American fellow who believed that he could grab a Chinese tourist visa in Ulan Bataar and then cross into China via the Trans-Mongolian railway for the Olympics….I just chucked.

      Thanks for the comment – What kind of buisness do you run in Shanghai?

  2. you know...

    This is monumental! Do you think Google will go through with it? (in your opinion)

    I appreciate the coverage on this! It really has a great world impact!

    • I’m quite worried about the CCP spin-machine on this one. They are unbelievably efficient in stoking the nationalistic fires, especially when foreigners are involved. The Post-Tiananmen Square China has developed a surprisngly strong “us-vs.them” national narrative with the CCP marketing themselves as the only salvation protecting China from the ambitions of the West. It’s a good opportunity for them to capitalize and expand on this interpretation.

      The super-slick spin they placed on the Tibet riots and the Olympic Torch relay fiasco in 2008 are the latest examples of where they managed to take a story, mix it with nationalism and emerge even stronger than before.

      There hasn’t been much rumbling from the State on the Google situation as of yet, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a huge campaign on this one. A couple of polls (dodgy ones, at best) have already appeared in the Mainland media claiming that upwards of 70% of respondents don’t think Google should bend at all to CCP wishes.

      As some one once said, there are statistics, and then there are Chinese statistics…polls are sketch in that country…but they still hold some validity.

      If the CCP pulls in some big spin…this may not end well for Google.

      However, as the author of a ImageThief nicely says “Google has taken the China corporate communications playbook, wrapped it in oily rags, doused it in gasoline and dropped a lit match on it.”

      Google is the only entity to actually have the balls to stand face to face with the CCP…this hasn’t happened before.

  3. Pingback: Google Hong Kong | Bryan Crosby Dot Ca

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