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Google, China Looking for Face-Saving Patch-up?

Both Google and Beijing seem to be looking for a face-saving patch-up, which could enable Google to stay on in China if Beijing promises to undertake a review of its Internet censorship and security regulations, if not immediately, at least in the foreseeable future.

2.This is evident from the statements and comments emanating from both sides. A spokesperson of Google was reported to have told the Bloomberg news agency on January 16,2010, that it is operating business as usual in China, is still censoring search results on and its employees in China are still going to work. The Reuters news agency quoted Google’s China office as saying that it would hold talks with the Chinese Government over the next few weeks.

3.The “Global Times”, published by the party-owned “People’s Daily” group, quoted Google as saying that its planned retreat from China is limited to, hinting that other services such as android phones and Gmail will not be affected. The “Global Times” further said: “A spokesman of the Google company who declined to be named said that Chinese users will possibly be able to continue using the search engine in Chinese through “The only thing we have announced is this: We will be talking to the Chinese authorities about the possibility of operating an uncensored search service within China. If it is impossible to operate an uncensored service within the law, we will close,” said the spokesman. “We will obviously continue to offer Chinese-language search on our global search engine.Beyond that, we are making no announcements on any other aspect of our business.”

4. An article carried by the ” Global Times” on January 17,2010, under the title “Google-China split would be loss for both sides” said: “Google CEO Eric Schmidt had a famous “5,000-year plan” for China, “We will take a long-term view to win in China. The Chinese have 5,000 years of history. Google has 5,000 years of patience in China.” Yet Schmidt’s promised patience for developing in China seems to be fading away now. The company’s “threat” to pull out of China amid concerns over censorship and cyber attacks has shocked the world and brought down Google’s share price by 1.3 percent. The price dip reflects investors’ worries over a huge potential business loss from the parting of ways. With its roughly 33.2 percent share of China’s $1 billion search market in 2009, Google’s possible exit would signal that it is giving up a booming Chinese market with 350 million Web surfers. Its strategic loss would be greater than its business loss. While other search engines, Chinese and foreign, would predictably grab a slice of the business abandoned by Google, the Internet giant’s inability to localize and tackle difficulties in China would be an incalculable loss to its long-term commitment to innovation. Google’s “New approach to China,” as spelled out in the title of its recent statement, would do no good to China, either. Should the world’s most populous nation fail to provide a foothold to the world’s top search engine, it would imply a setback to China and serious loss to China’s Net culture. The information highway demands not only safe driving but also free flow of traffic. And, in the interests of the majority’s right to know, free flow of information should take precedence in a civil society. In a transitional society like China, the existence of censorship can be justified, as allowing full play to multifarious and disorderly search results poses unprecedented risks to vulnerable netizens and social stability. But the Government must face up to the challenge of where and how to put the checkpoints on the highway. A sensitive and shrewd Government should have the vision and savvy to place the right kind of checkpoints at the right place and at the right time for ensuring the free flow of highway traffic as much as possible in the public interest. When Google entered China’s market about five years ago, it named itself “Gu Ge” (Grain Song) in Chinese. Google and China going their separate ways would hurt both sides. Let the song of sowing and expectation continue to be heard in China, for a win-win situation. ”

5. In an editorial on the subject the next day, the “Global Times” said: “The world’s top search engine needs to reflect on why it is lagging behind a local rival in China and why it is not getting as much support from Chinese Web users as it had expected. …..Technology and business should not be affected by political interests and diplomatic concerns. Though Chinese people have called for further steps to be taken by the Government to ensure free flow of information, it is always in their interest to have any foreign company operating in China abide by Chinese laws. Certainly, Google cannot be an exception. A split between Google and China will hurt both sides. And the Internet giant would lose further ground among its supporters if it is made a political football. Conciliatory negotiation may help in solving any issue. The West’s arrogance will not work.”

( The writer , Mr B.Raman,is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: )

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