Archive for July 12th, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Did Google “win” or “lose” against the CCP?

A lot has been written in the past few days about who “won” in the conflict between Google and the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship. Many are taking the fact that Google doesn’t automatically redirect from its .cn page to as evidence for Google’s defeat – in that the choice to use Google’s Hong Kong site is now with the mainland Chinese users, rather than an automatic redirection.

Once in a while, more specific points are made. Dana Blankenhorn, with, wrote on Friday that Google’s compromise in the deal of renewing its Chinese operating license was that

[t]he home page now offers only a link to its “uncensored” Hong Kong site, but those searches are easily traced and China’s firewall can then censor the results. Services other than search are still run out of China.

No Google user searching in the Chinese language can thus access information about anything the government decides, on its whim, the people should not know about. That was the government’s position all along. That position has been upheld.

But then, the conflict arose because Google didn’t want to censor itself. It can’t change the fact that the Chinese government censors the internet, and it never suggested that it could do that.

The issue who won or lost is important in many ways. In terms of freedom of information, China has lost. In terms of business, Google has lost. But a company can’t defeat government which isn’t under the rule of law. A company, in such a situation, can only fulfil its own policy. So far, Google seems to have done that. If other companies did likewise, this would amount to an impressive numbers of steps into the right direction. It’s a big difference if a company lives with a government’s dirty practise, or if it decides to do the dirty work on the government’s behalf.

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