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안녕, Google!

January 14, 2010

Google shocked everyone by announcing that it is considering shutting down Google.cn, its offices in China and exiting the Chinese market, alleging that there was an cyber-attack originated from China targeting its intellectual property and the e-mail accounts of several Chinese human rights activists in December. According to David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, Google is no longer willing to censor results on Google.cn, it will only continue its operations in China if the Chinese authorities agree to allow Google to “operate an unfiltered search engine within the law”.  Sounds like a blatant threat to the Chinese authorities: Do it our way or we are outta here.  Little did we know that Google is a freedom crusader! Hail! Hail!

I am torn on this one. While I think the GFW sucks to no end and I applaud Google’s courage to stick it up to the Chinese government to demand uncensored information, I would have been more impressed and heartened if Google had actually meant it: No uncensored information no way! This is not about censorship itself, nor is it about human rights which Google gives a scheisser about; it is really about Google’s standings in the Chinese market and its business prospect in China. It is trailing Baidu.com by some 15 to 40 percent, its market share-grabbing and revenue-generating business model which has worked very well elsewhere has so far been very disappointing in China: Google China brought in only $210 million in 2008, a mere 1% of Google’s worldwide revenue that year.  The Chinese government’s blocking of sites such as Youtube.com has seriously dampened Google’s earning potentials in China. No wonder the upper echelon at Google are frustrated and upset. This latest development is a calculated business move, it is an act of desperation rather than a showing of moral integrity. Make no mistake, Google is not in China to make friends, they are here to make money and perhaps along the way helping the US government influence the Chinese.

Yes you heard me right. I don’t like a bit about the fact that Google is closely coordinating its moves with the US government and my hunch is that the US government is somewhat behind this latest development. It is not surprising at all if this turns out to be correct, after all the US government has sought to influence China for decades to steer it toward becoming more pro-American and pro-Western (think of South Korea, folks). What better tool to influence and infiltrate China than the Internet, invented by the Americans and a vehicle of American values? Hillary Clinton issued a brief statement and is demanding the Chinese government for an explanation. I don’t know about you, for me this is the first time I am seeing the US government acting on behalf of a corporation as if Obama and Hillary Co. are sitting on Google’s board of directors. Silly me of course, the US is capitalist and capitalism is all about making a profit and everything else evolves around it, right?

My hunch is that the Chinese government will not budge, consider that they are now being pressured by the same US government which has provoked them recently with a concerted effort to send a message that “we are still No.1”.  If the US wants to play tough the Chinese can certainly play tough (however so far the Chinese have been all bark and no bite and no wonder nobody takes them seriously).  My second hunch is that Google will not just shut it all down and exit China entirely.  But if they do, I will be sorely bidding them farewell and genuinely having the greatest respect for them. For once principle triumphs over money. We shall see.

Bai Bai Google?

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