Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Google announced last week that it was moving its search operations from mainland China to Hong Kong. Users in China would now be redirected to its uncensored search engine at You can read more about Google's decision to shut down its censored search service here and here.

Google also launched a new service that allows users to monitor its availability in Mainland China. This new service can be accessed here.

Its interesting to me that the PRC government has yet to block access to the uncensored Google served from but has blocked Google's more interactive services that allow one-to-many communication like Google Sites, YouTube, and Blogger. Only time will tell if China will extend its Great Firewall to fully block all of Google's services.


Sarah Balistreri said...

The New York Times articles in this blog post brought up several interesting points about the relationship between Google and the Chinese government. By angering Chinese officials, Google is risking the loss of an enormous Internet market (400 million users). While I applauded their decision to defend against privacy harms and allow its Chinese users to browse without censorship, I wondered if it was a good business decision to do so. But after thinking over their decision, I realized that perhaps it was the result of more than just an ethical stance: if other Google users throughout the world knew that Google did not stand up to China’s attacks and that their emails/personal information were subject to these attacks, maybe they would not want to use Google’s services. In addition, the article also explained that Google only holds a small share of the Internet market in China (33 percent), with holding 63 percent. This statistic makes Google’s decision seem slightly less risky, as it will have “limited financial impact” on Google.
I also thought the articles were interesting in that they provided insight into how the Chinese government works. Although investigators both inside and outside of Google have traced the hacks back to two Chinese universities, they deny the allegations. Google would clearly not publicize findings they were unsure of and would not make a risky decision unless these attacks were a real threat to their security. The entire situation is, I think, slightly embarrassing to the Chinese government.

K Garcia said...

Google has definitely taken a heroic step in skirting Chinese censorship requirements and in directing its users to an uncensored search engine in Hong Kong. It was mainly an issue of ethical and financial opts which spurred Google into making this major decision. The current problem, however, is that Chinese officials are not happy with Googles rapid decision (to end censorship), and are completely capable of blocking the the Hong Kong search service in mainland China altogether.
Completely withdrawing Google from China would have only a limited impact on the immediate financial gains of Google, however, it would significantly hurt the long term vision of Google expanding globally. Why would Google even care too end censorship in China? And why would Google choose to completely withdraw from China over some malicious cyber attacks? Why not just stop the malicious cyber attacks?
I think a major part of Google’s decision to end censorship was to increase its market share and become a larger competitor against its main Chinese rival, Baidu. Google held 33 percent market share to Baidu’s 63 percent market share. Though Baidu is censored by the Chinese government, it holds an advantage over Google in Chinese domestic search results, and hence is why most Chinese internet users frequent it. Though many websites in China are publicly censored many censored websites go unnoticed due to Chinese government managerial tactics. In another NY times article i stumbled across written by Jonathan Stray it said, “ In China connection simply fails, just as it would if there were technical problems with the site that makes the issue of Internet censorship largely invisible.” This explains how the depth of the political censorship goes without public awareness.
Google has probably chosen to withdraw from China because there really is no fool proof security system which can protect against the most cyber aggressive nation in the world. The amount of loss which could assuage if Google were hacked on a large scale, could alter the integrity of Google and cause it to lose more money than it would gain from the Chinese economy.