What the Web Is Saying About the Google/China Showdown

Google (s goog) dropped a bomb yesterday, not merely for the technorati, but also for the world at large, by exposing Chinese attempts to hack into the networks of major U.S. companies as well as the email accounts of human rights activists. Google subsequently said it would no longer censor its web page in China, and would reevaluate its business operations in the country. So far, everyone from Om to Hillary Clinton has had something to say about the move, but in order to understand how the world beyond Silicon Valley sees it, we turned up some sources you might not go to on an everyday basis.

From China Daily (from the official Chinese newswire Xinhua):

Google’s possible retreat from China has prompted the company’s 700 China staff to fear for their jobs. “We were told that Google might quit China at a general meeting on Wednesday morning, and all of us feel very sad,” said an employee with Google’s Beijing office on condition of anonymity.

According to ChinaYouren:

The way the message has been drafted, chances for Google.cn to remain are slim. It will be very difficult for Google to step back from this, the whole tech World is going nuts about it. On the other hand, it is even more difficult for the Chinese authorities: even if they were willing to accept Google’s conditions (which they are not) they could never allow a Western company to publicly force their policies. Unless there is some kind of recanting, Google.cn is doomed.

China Digital Times has collected and translated tweets about the decision, including this one:

– @hecaitou: After Google leaves China, the world’s top three websites on Alexa —Google, Facebook and Youtube are all blocked in China. This is not an issue of Google abandoning China, but one of China abandoning the world. #googlecn

And from RCoversation:

On the other hand, a short Chinese-language report in Sina.com’s tech section is generating a long thread of comments from people who are unhappy about Google’s announcement because they don’t want to lose access to Google. Somebody has set up a website, http://www.googlebacktochina.com/ with a Chinese header that translates approximately as “Give me back my Google.” Famous tech blogger Keso mourns that Google’s retreat brings the Chinese Internet one step closer to being an Intranet.

And from Ars Technica (I know I said I wouldn’t use the usual tech suspects but the image they present of the history of Chinese hacking is first-rate):

As to goals, one of the biggest is ripping off research breakthroughs in order to save time. The report notes that “Chinese industrial espionage is providing a source of new technology without the necessity of investing time or money to perform research… Chinese espionage in the United States, which now comprises the single greatest threat to US technology, according to US counterintelligence officials, is straining the US capacity to respond. This illicit activity both from traditional techniques and computer-based activity are possibly contributing to China’s military modernization and its acquisition of new technical capabilities.”

And finally, this from The Atlantic:

But there are also reasons to think that a difficult and unpleasant stage of China-U.S. and China-world relations lies ahead. This is so on the economic front, as warned about here nearly a year ago with later evidence here. It may prove to be so on the environmental front — that is what the argument over China’s role in Copenhagen is about. It is increasingly so on the political-liberties front, as witness Vaclav Havel’s denunciation of the recent 11-year prison sentence for the man who is in many ways his Chinese counterpart, Liu Xiaobo. And if a major U.S. company — indeed, Google has been ranked the #1 brand in the world — has concluded that, in effect, it must break diplomatic relations with China because its policies are too repressive and intrusive to make peace with, that is a significant judgment.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user permanently scatterbrained