Over the past week and a half, I have been accessing my Gmail account from within China at various places. Since Google insinuated the service being interfered with by the Chinese government, I thought I report first hand what I experienced. While in Guilin, I only could connect couple of times in hotels without resorting to using VPN. The Gmail’s login doesn’t show up or following entering username and password, the connection times out. While at a relative’s home, access to Gmail was without any problem. While in Beijing, I have not had any problems either.
While a user of Gmail, I still honestly feel the Chinese government should block Gmail if Google does not respect China’s jurisdiction over users from within Chinese borders when using the service. Let’s say, there are two terrorists plotting to blow up some building or bridge in China. They used Gmail to coordinate their attack. If Google does not comply with Chinese courts in turning over information on these terrorists, then I think it is very appropriate for the Chinese government to block the service from within China altogether.
Some might argue that gives Baidu and other services too much of a leg up in competition in China. It certainly does, but I feel that would be what a arrogant Google deserves. After-all, if MSN and Yahoo are willing to comply with Chinese laws, why should Google be the exception?
The U.S. media is making this out to be a censorship issue or as if China is somehow elevating Google to some entity powerful enough like a nation state. That is preposterous. China does what it needs to do and the U.S. media and Google could make all the noise it wants. Life will move on.
I personally give Google 50% chance of going AOL in 20 years. That is what happens to arrogant companies.
Of course, this idea of Chinese government interference in Gmail is all speculation. Google hasn’t shared any fact on their insinuation. The U.S. media haven’t shown any fact. We are all speculating.
The bottom line for me though, respect jurisdiction or accept blockage (if ultimately comes to that). There have been many ‘giants’ that came and went. Google is just another company trying to make few bucks.