Google has just officially announced discontinuing google.cn and routing web requests to google.com.hk. It has proclaimed serving uncensored results from Hong Kong “entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China.” Legally, it is probably true, but the Chinese government might take steps to block google.com.hk for Mainland users, as China has done with some other Google services. Google has also announced a tracking web page to show what Google services are blocked within China.
In anticipation for today’s announcement, former Financial Times reporter, Tom Foremski, has an interesting take on this matter yesterday over at the Silicon Valley Watcher blog: “Analysis: Chinese Animosity To Google Is Rising Quickly – Google Should Have Googled “Opium Wars”.” He said:
Google has demonstrated a shocking lack of historical knowledge and lack of understanding of Chinese culture in its dealings with the Chinese government.
For a foreign organization to give the Chinese government an ultimatum on changing its laws is like poking a sharp stick into an old wound. Google should have Googled “Opium Wars” before it issued its ultimatum.
The British forced the Chinese to make opium legal, which led to huge amounts of instability in Chinese society, and resulted in two brutal wars, the second one included the French.
Obviously, the U.S. will not invade China over this Google issue, so this comparison is not a direct one. But he is absolutely right that the Chinese population will recall this history and see the parallel in the contempt for Chinese laws and values being the same between Google and the Opium-pushing Britain of the two past Opium Wars. In the 1800’s, imperialism was about direct domination of others. In the 21st century, perhaps it is more about the battling of ideas and values. For a better read and not so crude take on this issue, please read “Google vs. China – Good vs. Evil?” written by Allen.
Animosity within China for Google has indeed risen. I really doubt Google executives expected this reaction from within China. What will the Chinese government do next? I think they might make google.cn domain registration illegal inside China. After that, there will be no remnants of google.cn at all.
As Foremski stated, Google has not offered up any evidence linking the Chinese government to the attacks. Given the fact that all U.S. media have basically jumped to the conclusion that the Chinese government was behind the hacks, isn’t there a case of libel triggered by Google’s January 12, 2010 announcement?
What if the Chinese government sues Google in the Chinese courts for libel?
It will also be interesting to see what level of interest the U.S. media will have on this story after this “pull-out” reactions are over with.