Friday, July 09, 2010

Google to Resume Search Service in China: A Win-Win Solution?

The Chinese government renewed Google's Internet service license recently, the Associated Press reported today.

The catch? Google ought to stop automatically directing mainland users to its Hong Kong-based search site, which is not cencored by the Chinese government. Meanwhile, to continue to operate within China, Google is very likely to filter information as required  by the government.

This seems to be a win-win solution for both Google and the Chinese authorities.

Google got what it wanted: the chance to expand business and exploit profit potentials in China's growing Internet industry. The Chinese government, on the other hand, eased its tension with Google and perhaps other Western businesses, while at the same time managed to remain its control over information flow.

But what about Chinese web users? While a top American Internet company celebrating its commercial gains and the Chinese authorities chuckling at their political victory, millions of Chinese people hunger for more information are set to be the loser.

Even when Chinese netizens were directed to Google's Hong Kong site, certain information was still blocked to them, according to NPR. Baidu, China's biggest Internet search service, is never interested in challenging the authorities. Now with Google resuming its China-based, i.e. filtered, service, everything is simply same old, same old.

As is Chinese web users' effort to surpass the Great Firewall.  Fortunately for many, access to more information is only a software away.

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1 comment:

Kai Pan said...

Your NPR/AP sources are wrong on several key points, which is disappointing because they should be better than this.

The suggestion your post makes (and that the NPR/AP article makes) is that Google has backtracked and is closer to filtering information again following the renewal of the ICP license. This is not the case.

Google continues to offer its uncensored but localized Hong Kong search engine through as it has been doing since shutting down its original dedicated China search engine (that was self-censored) at the end of March 2010 to make good on its earlier December 2009 promise that it would no longer self-censor search results in China. The only difference now is that visitors to have to click on an image of a search bar (which they'd do anyway to enter a search query) on the redesigned homepage to get to Previously (but after the end of March), there was no homepage on The Chinese government had objected to the automatic redirect, and it was Google's idea to bring their website into compliance by making the new homepage.

Again -- I want to emphasize -- Google is no closer nor more likely to filter web search information following this news. Nor is Google resuming "its China-based, i.e. filtered, service." This is completely incorrect.

For a more comprehensive review of the Google China drama and the alarming misunderstandings, misconceptions, and mistakes of a lot of media reporting surrounding the ICP license renewal news, please see my recent post here.