Google's China Syndrome: What the Pull-Out Means

By Caitlin Millat
|  Tuesday, Mar 23, 2010  |  Updated 4:15 AM PDT
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Google's China Syndrome: What the Pull-Out Means

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Google vs. China: Who wins after the latest gauntlet is thrown in the ongoing censorship war?

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Google has made a bold move in its fight against censorship in China, announcing it would redirect all Chinese traffic to its Hong Kong site in order to avoid government screening.

The sudden move by Google, immediately denounced by the Chinese government as a "violation" of its written promises, has been heralded both as a crusade for free speech and a fruitless jab against a powerful Chinese machine Google is incapable of fighting.

The rundown:

  • Google's play is a leap forward in the battle against the Chinese Big Brother, says the staff at Frontier India blogs, writing the search engine's move -- and the subsequent reaction from China -- highlights the Chinese government's blatant censorship of Web content. "Google's decision to stop censoring its Chinese search engine is a strong step in favor of freedom of expression and information," the staff writes.
     
  • Google execs have carefully framed the move as an ongoing conversation with the Chinese rather than as a sweeping, one-sided action, Brier Dudley writes for the Seattle Times, but in reality, Google is benefiting while China will suffer a serious blow to its reputation, he argues.
     
  • Anti-censorship crusade aside, the move to redirect traffic to Hong Kong rather than completely pull out of China is a shrewd business move that will both amp up Google's public image and damage China's, Chris Thompson writes for The Big Money blog. Google is "daring" China to block access to its Hong Kong site, Thompson writes, a move that would paint the country as totalitarian: "If China does so -- and it surely will -- the country will come across as the aggressor, unwilling to tolerate even the slightest hint of free information," he blogs.
     
  • Moving to Hong Kong, of all nations to choose from, is a slap in China's face, Andrew Leonard blogs for Salon. Directing traffic to the region, a former Chinese territory seized by Western power Britain after the Opium War, is a humiliation to the Chinese that will only tighten tensions between the nation and the U.S., Leonard writes. "The company's decision to move across the border to the site of one of the most egregious historical embarassments for China is unlikely to go well," he argues.
     
  • Whatever actions China takes next, the Google move has put pressure on the government to either firmly reconsider or recommit to its censorship practices, Jacqui Cheng writes for Ars Technica. Google is "walking the walk after talking the talk" on censorship, Cheng writes, a move that will squeeze the Chinese to fight back equally as strong. "China's reaction to the decision to redirect search traffic certainly won't be pretty, but Google knew what it was getting into when it threw down the gauntlet three months ago," Cheng writes.

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