China to Google: Obey or Pay

Country lays down the law and consequences

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Google chief executive Eric Schmidt spells Chinese characters 'Gu Ge' at the inauguration of the company new Chinese brand name April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China. Google said it has adopted the Chinese-language brand name 'Gu Ge' for its Chinese operations, with Google chief executive Eric Schmidt saying the new name demonstrated Google's commitment to China.

    China's Secretary of Industry and Information Technology made the strongest statement about Google so far: "If you want to do something that disobeys Chinese law and regulations, you are unfriendly, you are irresponsible and you will have to pay the consequences."

    Google said in January that it would leave China and may close its China site because the emails of many customers were being hacked and the country was not allowing the company to provide uncensored Internet.

    The hacking was traced to servers at two Chinese universities, but the schools denied they were involved.

    It would appear, given the strong language from the top Chinese official, that China has answered Google's ultimatum and that the company will have no choice but to leave or lose face with the entire world.

    There is a second possibility, however. If there are backroom negotiations going on and that the blusterly language is some sort of negotiating ploy.

    China has the world's largest Internet market, with 384 million people online -- Google has about 35 percent of that search market.