China : Google confirms that they wish to negotiate
January 18th, 2010 - 01:49 pm ET by J. G.
Google denies having already decided to leave China. Before arriving at such a drastic decision, a negotiation process should first take place with Chinese authorities.
Google last week revealed that they were the victim of cyber attack in December 2009 originating from China, with it mooted that the Chinese government were behind the action. The computer attacks were sophisticated, with access to Chinese human rights activists Gmail accounts being targeted. This may have been the straw that broke the camels back for the American company, present since 2006 in China under the condition that they conform to Chinese authorities’ censorship rules. This appears to no longer the case, as they have decided to reduce filtering on the Google.cn search engine. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Google is far from being the leader in China, as the Baidu engine has a firm grip on search engine market.
According to Reuters, despite some flexibility surrounding the events of Tiananmen Square, most filters on the Google.cn site were still in place on Sunday. To quash rumours that they had already decided to close their Chinese offices employing close to 700 people over 3 sites, Google indicated that they were in discussions with Chinese authorities. At the same time, Google is also closely monitoring their networks for further cyber attacks.
The negotiation process was announced once the nature of this affair started to become a political issue, with Washington asking for explanations. Before leaving a market which today accounts for 384 million internet users, Google wants to discuss with the Chinese government changes to their working conditions in China. This discussion won’t be simple, as the Chinese government knows very well that all foreign companies must respect their local laws.
The censorship point will be critical, with similar situations already in place with Google Germany who accept censorships of Nazi content and in Australia in relation to links which point to the satirical encyclopaedia Dramatica which promoted racist ideas against aborigines. This has been done in accordance with local laws in these countries, setting a trend to be followed in China.
Google has therefore taken China on with a certain panache, even if some people see this as a strategy to help improve their image. It goes without saying that this action taken by Google China will probably have some consequences, and if they wish to continue their adventure in China then it probably won’t be made comfortable for them.