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Say Goodbye to Google China? Chinese Reactions

The official Google blog released a post on January 12 saying:

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

This blog post has already been translated into Chinese by a Chinese netizen.

The reasons provided by Google for the closing of their Chinese offices are rather vague if not unpersuasive.

  • Yes, cyber attacks exist in China and some originated from this country, but Google is not the only victim and even its major opponent Baidu recently got DNS hijacked by the so-called “Iranian Cyber Army”.
  • Second, isn’t it Google’s responsibility to utilize all its technical might to protect users’, including human rights activists’, privacy? Saying “we will retreat because some of our users’ email account were monitored” is like admitting their own disadvantage in technical strength and persuading users to switch to other companies.
  • Third, I fail to see why compromise of some users’ computers due to their own lack of sense in internet security is a fault of Google itself: anyone using ANY email system could be hacked if the user acts like a security newbie, and it doesn’t matter where the login portal pages are hosted (I remember Google doesn’t have a data center in China).

Maybe Google and the Chinese government failed to reach an under-the-table deal recently and Google thinks the revenue from China’s 26% search engine market (already larger than the US market in number) doesn’t pay the cost of following local laws and the damage of reputation from “doing evil”? But isn’t the trouble for millions of Chinese users of backing up GMail and other Google service accounts a part of “doing evil” too (if these backups are needed)? And how does Google China settle the eight hundred employees in its Chinese offices?

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I really hope this announcement is just a protest (or a joke) from Google to the Chinese government against its protectionist policies and the company will still keep running in China or it’s really the saddest and naivest thing I have ever heard in 2010. Anyway, I will follow this incident and report updates on chinaSMACK in the next few days.

Further readings:

From The Telegraph, “Google threatens to pull out of China “:

After the announcement, Google’s China website immediately began to offer reports and images of the Tiananmen Square massacre and other highly sensitive events that Beijing has suppressed for decades.

Note: I failed to get these “reports and images” from Google.cn when I tried.

UPDATE:

From Xiang Ligang’s Blog (on Sina):

Google’s renouncing its Chinese operations is merely psychological warfare

In the past few days [the Chinese Internet] was filled with big news from search engines. Yesterday, Baidu failed to work for several hours, and then this morning, Google announced on its official blog that it is considering closing its China operations and also the website Google.cn.

I think Google’s announcement is basically a kind of psychological warfare and is unlikely to be implemented, otherwise the losing side is Google and the netizen. However, the majority of Chinese internet users will forget this incident in no more than three months and only few people will remember it occasionally, like ripples on a pool of water.

Google made such a declaration which is related to the conflict between its ideology and management [in China] recently. Since the beginning, Google has not thought of itself as a media, but a search engine, and [Google believes that] search results are technically determined [rendered purely from algorithm] and it [Google] should not be responsible for the management [censorship] of these results. In the United States, if there are contents that affect the image of the leadership and even [result in] personal attacks, Google just makes a statement [won’t pull these contents down].

Thus, in the Chinese market, Google has no intention to adjust itself to adapt to the Chinese situation, but in full accordance work along their own ideology [that were discussed on the above paragraph]. Therefore, under the media exposure in the Anti-Pornography campaign, Google could barely handle the situation and had to change its leadership in China. Even in such a situation, Google has been facing the pressure of taking on more management responsibilities [from the government].

On the recent copyright lawsuit with the Writer’s Society, Google didn’t understand [the Chinese writers’ appeal] well either. Google’s understanding is, they did not scan all the books nor made them available for readers but barely scanned a portion of the books, which should work as indexes to facilitate readers’ inquiry and learning and even to some extent help the writers increase their books’ publicity. Reaction and impact in the Mainland are things that Google finds hard to understand.

For Chinese people, we think these things from different angles and we will understand varies levels’ [social classes’] feeling, but for Americans, it is difficult to accept [understand].

However, will Google really withdraw from the Chinese market? Personally, I think this is just psychological warfare. For the world and the internet industry, losing China is like missing a huge market. And in the subsequent development of the Internet, for example 3G-related services, there will be a large number of areas that Internet companies must pay attention. Losing the Chinese market will be a major blow to Google’s global strategy and will also affect its future strategic layout [of the global market]. In the long run, its mobile phone [Nexus One], mobile operating system [Android] and other related services will face a big problem.

The most important thing, after quitting the Chinese market, is: Will Google’s relevant departments in China be facing a lot pressure? No department [of Google China] would actually be held accountable. The majority of internet users will not be affected much, while the only suffering ones are Google’s employees [in China]. The result will be that Chinese [companies] become increasingly powerful [have more future market share] in search engines and 3G businesses. Think about it, the day when Google wants to reenter the Chinese market, it will be completely uncompetitive. And if they adopt such a confrontational action [quitting the Chinese market], it’s hard to say how the cooperation between Android and Chinese enterprises will be affected.

I think China and the United States have always been strategic rivals and, at the same time, partners in many areas. For Google it is the same, they must realize that [people in] China and the United States do not feel [think] the same thus they must find more channels to exchange [opinions] and to communicate, and they have to be far-sighted to see through all these [Chinese characteristics]. Quitting is not an attractive option for Google.

Chinese Netizen Reactions

Below I have translated some comments by Chinese netizens about this news and added a poll to ask what you think about what will happen. — Fauna

Comments from KDS:

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ThE:

服部半藏:

Now this a big company’s behavior!! In the future I will definitely buy a Google mobile phone to show my approval!! (But it needs to be a bit cheaper).

月色朦胧:

At the time, it was on Google that I/we searched and found Sexy Photos Gate. We cannot not have Google.

小姐侬好:

What use are the [Chinese] netizen masses…American government…hurry and help/support Google…

東京タワー:

2 possible outcomes:
more freedom or no freedom

白兔先生:

Over the past 5 years, I’ve personally always used Google~The name “谷歌” [gu ge] is too “2” [sha, “stupid”].

root:

Baidu is a puppet , Google finally rises up/stands up!

毛豆子:

NND, no matter who you are, the moment you come to the Celestial Kingdom, you will be castrated.

燃烧の酒精:

When searching for AV girls, I will think of Baidu Baike, but for normal things, I look to Google.

今天不下作:

For this, Google must be supported, fuck, in the future I won’t use Baidu anymore!

RR拖拉机:

I definitely support Google, definitely do not lower your head [bow, give in] to the Celestial Kingdom [Chinese government].

坏掉的鼠標:

iGoogle is my homepage.
Google Reader is my newspaper.
Google Documents is my document editor (and furthermore just today it began to accept any file format for upload).
Google Voice is my communication tool.

Without Google, how do I survive?

Ru.J:


Shut it down.
TG [The government] already does whatever it wants.
Entering email boxes, deleting the account owners’ emails…
is tantamount to
entering someone else’s company and kicking out the old customers.
They [the company] can no longer do business,
so of course they will want to leave.
I ding you Google.
Your name will go down in history

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2010 January 14 ~1:30 UPDATE: There are rumors (or jokes) that Google will help their Chinese employees get American Green Cards but require a 3 year employment contract. — Fauna

2010 January 14 ~13:00 UPDATE: More translations to read… — Fauna

  • “Google Leaving China? Chinese Responses” (ChinaGeeks)
  • “Google China photos: because I’m without words” (CNReviews)
  • “Withdraw?  Google Is Only Throwing A Hissy Fit!” (EastSouthWestNorth)
  • “The Chief Design Officer of Baidu Reacts to Google’s Withdrawal from China” (EastSouthWestNorth)
  • “70% Chinese Internet Users Surveyed Don’t Think The Government Should Make Any Concessions To Google” (EastSouthWestNorth)
  • “Google Leaving?  Is this because they couldn’t adapt, or because they are bitter?” (EastSouthWestNorth)

I am a little suspicious of the Huangqiu poll that says over 70% of Chinese say the Chinese government should not accept conditions from Google. Please note that only ~2000 people participate in that survey question, but more than 17,000 people participate in the other survey questions. Strange?

2010 January 17 ~15:00 UPDATE: More readings. — Python

  • “Clearing Up Confusion on Google and China” (WSJ’s China Real Time Report)
  • Google China changed its logo after the incident. “Google.cn Highlights China’s Great Inventions” (WSJ’s China Real Time Report). Read: EXIT.
  • “China’s puny online ad market, and Google” (Danwei)
  • If you are as curious (and geeky) as I am,  read on “Code Used To Attack Google Now Public” (Slashdot). Google should seriously consider fire its employees who are still using IE6 on Windows XP and hire me.
  • Quote from Kaifu Lee, founder of Google China who left Google last year, on his microblog, “A captain would never run away from his duty, if he knew the ship was sinking.”
  • Keso made a list (Chinese) on Google-gates (scandals) in China. All 19 of them since 2006, from copyright infringement to pornography, to tax evasion, to breaking its promise on earthquake donation.
  • Something hilarious to watch, “What Baidu will look like once Google is gone from China” (Shanghaiist)
  • And an even more hilarious piece translated by ESWN, “The Truth About The Google Affair”.

2010 January 18 ~2:00 UPDATE: — Fauna

2010 January 20 ~11:00 UPDATE: — Python

Google China released a short announcement on their official blog in Chinese. I translated it here on chinaSMACK:

To clarify some untruthful rumors
January 19, 2010 PM 06:03:00
Posted by: Yun Liu and Wenluo Yang

Over the past few days, we have seen a lot untrue rumors about Google China and Google‘s employees: there are reports that we have closed the office in China, and there are some reports that we have employees in China who had recently been notified to leave their jobs. These [rumors] are all untruthful. Currently, Google employees in China are working in the offices as usual, to discuss product development and to communicate with [our] customers. Despite that Google’s executives in the head offices [in Mountain View] recently announced that they will discuss on some matters with the Chinese government in the next few weeks, Google China’s employees are, as always, making an effort to provide our customers and partners with the best products and services, [since] customers and partners are very important to Google.

Not threatening to pull out of China. chinaSMACK personals.

Written by Python

Python is an enthusiastic supporter and contributor of chinaSMACK. He used to like writing articles for this blog but currently his interest is more on the software side of this website, i.e., fine-tuning server and database, solving scalability problem and maintaining the server's swift and smooth response.

His goal is to have the server running for continuous 12 months, with over 99.9% uptime and 1000 concurrent connections.

In summary, he is the one who smacks chinaSMACK.