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UPDATE: A Google Spokesperson just emailed me this: “This is not about market share. While our revenues from China are really immaterial, we did just have our best ever quarter [in China].” Techcrunch’s Japan writer, Serkan Toto, tweeted at me tonight : “Astonished about how some people, i.e. @scobleizer, idolize Google now.
Sarah Lacy, on Techcrunch, wrote that the Google move today was more about business than about ethics . I am torn by her article, but to explain why I need to go into the push and pull of China and how it rips the heart out of US companies. I’ve visited China twice, once in 1995 to work at a computer show there, and again last year to visit entrepreneurs in Shanghai, get a tour of Seagate’s factory, and see inside PCH, which is one of the supply chains that many of your favorite technology companies use, and visit a blogger conference. As an American I saw two opposite poles: one of unending opportunity and one of unending frustration of dealing with the government. First, the pull. The opportunity was in my face.
By REBECCA MACKINNON One night in the mid-1990s when I was working as a journalist in Beijing, I went out to dinner with some Chinese friends. I had just finished reading a book called "The File" by the British historian Timothy Garton Ash. It's about what happened in East Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down and everybody could see the files the Stasi had been keeping all those years. People discovered who had been ratting on whom—in some cases neighbors and co-workers, but also lovers, spouses and even children. After I described the book to my Chinese dinner companions—a hip and artsy intellectual crowd—one friend declared: "Some day the same thing will happen in China, then I'll know who my real friends are."
Writing about China as an American is always tricky, but nowhere near as tricky as what an American company faces doing business there. Let me say upfront, I don’t envy Google. The company has had more success in China than a lot of other big Valley names, but isn’t and will likely never be the market leader. And to get that far, many in the West feel Google has had to compromise its “do-no-evil” ethics by agreeing to some of the government’s censorship rules. Google has been damned either way: China is too big of a market to ignore, but getting as far as they have has come at a steep price to their reputation and international (read: Western) integrity. Enter the now famous blog post (that was notably, only on the English-language site) saying that Google was no longer playing by the Chinese government’s rules and was prepared to close down Chinese operations if it came to that.
Comment Amnesty International was among the human rights organisations scrambling to congratulate Google for threatening to pull out of China today. Which just shows how much human rights activists know about technology. Come to think of it, if human rights campaigners did know more about technology, they might think twice about using Gmail accounts.
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.” – John F. Kennedy How exciting! Google has issued a statement saying it’s un-censoring its search results in China! And it’s threatening to pull out of the country completely, in retaliation for an alleged (and, we’re led to infer, government-backed) attempt to hack the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents!
The news this past week that Google would cease the censorship of its search results in China , and could well be forced to entirely halt operations in the country as a result, is quite simply one of the most interesting stories to come along in the tech sphere in a long time. The reality is that it’s not just a tech story; it spills into the world of international politics and beyond. And it could have wide-reaching ramifications far into the future.
On the surface, Google's threat to shut down its China operations after a cyberattack on its infrastructure looks like sheer business lunacy. How can the search giant give up on the world's biggest growth market? It's easier than you'd think. First, the background. Google in a long blog post detailed how it suffered a cyberattack that changed the company's outlook on China. The key points ( Techmeme ):
Today many people in China are sad. Who’s sad? The people in China who most strongly support Google.
There has been a recent bold statement released from the inner sanctum of Google . Paraphrased: Google said to China , “Due to your noncompliance with our request, we will stop censoring all our searches to google.cn”. With this assertion, this could spell the end of Google and all its business operation in China should one party doesn’t agree with the approach of the other end. These non-compliance could be expounded into these excerpts taken from google’s statement stating that they received recent sophisticated attacks all coming from China targeting “Chinese Human Rights Activist”.
For years, security experts in the US and Europe have known that Chinese hackers sanctioned by its government have been probing the computer systems of important organisations – whether aerospace companies, science laboratories or the British parliament, which was targeted at the end of 2005. Now Google has discovered that it, too, is among the targets of those attacks. The internet giant has declared cyberwar on the world's biggest nation.
We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation. The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy. I will be giving an address next week on the centrality of internet freedom in the 21st century, and we will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear.
A make-shift shrine outside the Google Beijing office People congregate outside the Google Beijing office A message of support for Google Inc. People inside the Google office in Beijing
Yesterday's announcement that Google would stop censoring its search results in China , and that the company had been the victim of sophisticated Chinese cyberattacks, was a Big Deal; Secretary of State Hilary Clinton even felt the need to weigh in on it with an official statement. And she wasn't the only one with an opinion, insight, or suggestion to share. Clinton weighs in.
From Silicon Valley to Zhongguancun , Google’s surprise announcement that it may pull out of China has fueled an enormous amount of discussion in recent days, not all of it 100% accurate. Below are some misstatements and misunderstandings we’ve seen: 1. Google failed in China Google’s China operations contribute a small fraction of the company’s overall revenue – the company doesn’t disclose the amount, but analysts estimate it was a few percent of its total $21.8 billion in 2008 revenue, or several hundred million dollars.