March 23rd, 2010
09:46 AM ET

Google and China: Breaking down the chess game

Google has stopped censoring search results in China, the search giant said, finally ending the chess game between Beijing and Google and speculation to whether Google would pull out of China entirely and set up a showdown with the Communist leadership there.

On its official blog, Google said it stopped running the censored Google.cn service on Monday and was routing its Chinese users to an uncensored version of Google based in Hong Kong.

The problems between Google and China reached a boiling point when Google disclosed that it had been the victim of a cyberattack that security experts believe was carried out by hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government, something China has denied.

Google's decision to stop censoring its China Web Site angered China's state media which said the move "violated its written promise" and was "totally wrong." The reaction was no surprise - the media there launched a volley of articles attacking the "politicization" of Google in the days before the announcement.

When discussions of Google leaving China began there were initially concerns about what impact he move could have on U.S-Sino relations. On Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry said however there's no reason China's spat with the Internet search giant should hurt relations with the United States.

But the U.S. and China aren't the only ones who may feel the impact of the decision. Academics, university students and other researchers rely heavily on Google's search services to access information not available through Chinese search engines, like Baidu.com, China's most popular search portal. Small businesses that depend on Google applications such as Google Docs and Gmail may also suffer, analysts said. But most of China's nearly 400 million Internet users may not be affected by the closure.

On Monday, after their announcement, Google set up a dashboard similar to the Apps Status Dashboard that relays problems with Google's services. This page (located here) will list day-to-day updates on which of Google's services are accessible in China.

Exactly how China will respond in the coming days, weeks, months and years is uncertain. Our friends at Time.com take a look at what an uncensored Google means for China and what the future is between the two.

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Filed under: China • Google • Technology • World
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. sk

    Good move Google! You may lose chinese market revenue but you will win the respect of a lot of consumers internationally and locally. Someone needs to show China they cant get ' "westernized" and capitalistic and get rich on the one hand and keep their old repressive regime and human rights abuses on the other hand.

    March 23, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AGuest9

    @Woody Woodruff: There are certain brands of computers that are not allowed on sensitive networks in the DoD. This might hint at what you are suggesting.

    March 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. hobbs

    based on google's decision to leave China, I feel more confident about using their services. This story is a huge PR benefit to them – a couple months ago I was getting worried that they were taking over the world, now I am almost gitty about using their services – yes I know its not rational but its my way of giving the finger to the Chinese government. Based on the other comments here I am not the only one who feels this way.

    March 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Today's Observer

    Many of us in the West take the stand that China is somehow oppressing its people by not allowing the free flow of information on the internet. Perhaps we should try to understand (even if we don't agree with their policies) why China is so paranoid (sort of "walk in their shoes"). To China, issues such as Tiannamen Square and Tibet are seen as incitements to separatist movements that could tear apart the country that is fragily held together. Chinese leaders, rightly or wrongly, see these issues as a threat to their grip on power and national unity, and they will be censored.

    By the way, all countries must censor the internet, including the United States. Complete freedom of information is very dangerous. Google would be very irresponsible to include listing of sites on how to make biological weapons, how to sexually prey on children, how to assinate public figures, how to form hate groups, how/where to poison our drinking water, how to subvert/evade law enforcements, etc...

    March 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Julian Chan

    1) Even in the US, "freedom of Speech" is limited. Here we do not have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. We do not have the right to slander each other. We don't have the right to child pornography. Each country should be entitled to set their own laws.

    2) Google censors searches, EVEN IN THE US. They freely admit this.

    3) The "Hacking" is only 2 email accounts and there have been reports that these were by amateurs using software that is 5 years out of date. Come on here. Proportionality here? Does anyone really believe that 2 email accounts would cause someone to leave a country?

    And wasn't the US using Echelon to record all our cell phone calls and pressuring Verizon and ATT to turn over records? Wasn't there discussion that this was in violation of US law, i.e. using the NSA to spy on US citizens without warrants? I don't see ATT and Verizon suggesting they should leave the US market. (that would be ridiculous, and so is believing that is what Google is doing)

    I have great concern when a company that has less than 17% market share of the search market in China suddenly takes the position that it is the moral leader. Smells to me more of a justification of business failure for Wall Street. But that is my personal opinion

    March 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Julian Chan

    As a follow up. I personally feel China should have more freedom of expression and less censorship.

    But I also recognize that that country is undergoing tremendous change, that the government is playing it safe and trying to manage that change, and that it has been progressing over time to more freedom.

    March 23, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LYeung

    Life is dear,love is dearer. Both can be given up for freedom.i love freedom,Internet Freedom,Speaking Freedom,Freedom of demonstration etc. in fact,we have nothing.

    March 23, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. NEseattleite

    You can't blame Google for not wanting to be a tool of the People's Liberation Army.

    The attempts to hack into Google's computers, both in the US and in China, by agents of the PLA, using sophisticated zero-hour attacks is part of a military strategy to control the Internet during conflict. To do so the PLA must be able to take control of servers long before a conflict. The PLA also wants to steal as much Google technology as they can for their search engine (Baidu).

    When Google discovered the hacking they started working with the NSA to try to stop the attacks and to formulate a response. Not only has the Chinese government refused to cooperate with Google to punish the hackers, but they have denied that any hacking took place. Google and the NSA have detailed logs and IP traces to computers in China but they do not want to reveal all of their evidence because it would tip the PLA to their detection methods.

    I think I would have made the same decision as Google.

    I am shocked that the US news media is keeping this quiet. It is a big story. Are the news outlets afraid of irritating China?

    March 24, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Chandler

    google did the right thing. we chinese people do have no freedom in the internet. no twitter, no facebook, no youtube, no blogger, ... we really want to know the world but we just can't. there is only freedamn.

    March 24, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. 1WhoCares

    If Google and the Internet go away, the Chinese people will still get up and go to work in the morning, very much like the rest of the world.

    March 24, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. ken

    We have stayed free because our rights had not been seriously threatened until we got us a regime complet with more Czars than we can count.. We the people will be in the same fix as China soon . 72 and not stupid nor have I lost my eysight yet. Would not surprise me if the White House is moved inland to Chicago.If anyone thinks that Democracy was at work last week they did not listen. Transparency we were promised.Awaiting moderation

    March 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. hakiri

    china plays go, not chess. This concept is probably why the United States as well as western technological businesses have trouble understanding China. The United States plays chess against China, while China is playing go against the Unites States. Sorry, CNN, but you got the "chess game" part wrong when explaining China.

    April 21, 2010 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
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