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Chinese Media, Bloggers Ask: Is Google Really Saying Goodbye?

New America Media, News Analysis, Vivian Po Posted: Jan 16, 2010

Googles announcement that it may pull out of China has sparked a wide range of responses from Chinese media and bloggers. While some organized candlelight vigils to mourn Google's loss, others claimed that the American company is running scared because it could not compete with the Chinese. But the question everyone is asking is, is Google really leaving, or is this a bluff?

Google said on Tuesday that it was considering shutting down Google.cn and closing its offices in China after a cyber attack on its corporate infrastructure resulted in intellectual property loss. Google also said it would stop censoring search results on Google.cn. For the first time, reports and images of the Tiananmen Square massacre and other events could be seen through Google searches in China.

The announcement generated diverse reactions from online users, with Chinese American media rushing to provide their analysis in the context of U.S.-China relations.

Google, Dont become a tool in the political fight between the U.S. and China read the headline of an editorial published Friday in China Press. Though Obama tried to adapt to Chinas increasingly powerful role in the world with a new attitude and said the United States would not repress Chinas development, the differences in ideology between the countries continue to prohibit the U.S.-China relationship from moving forward, the editorial argued.

An editorial in Sing Tao Daily Bay Area, titled Google--Let It Go contends that no matter how the Chinese government reacts, Google will be on the winning side. Editor-in-chief Joseph Leung writes, If the Chinese government just let it go, Google could stop its financial losses in China, which would be beneficial to its share price. If the Chinese government is willing to compromise, Google will become the hero that breaks Chinas strict control over Internet information. Chinese investors, Leung noted, believe the absence of Google will actually benefit the local Internet market; the stock prices of Chinese Internet companies rose right after the announcement was made.

Not all Chinese media are critical of Googles move. Editors of the World Journal said they were happy to see Google defend the freedom of online information without censorship, describing it as an act of courage. A popular column in World Journal contends that it is time for the Chinese government to change in order to develop into a truly strong country. A real strong country is not just strong economically, the column argues. It also needs development in peoples values, in order to build a healthy and principled system, and abolish the current zero-tolerance policy on dissident expression.

Meanwhile, media in China are not convinced that Google is really going to leave. They view Google's threat to shut down its offices as a strategic move.

A news analysis in China Times describes the announcement as a tactic for Google to gain more freedom in China. Googles announcement is meant to force Beijing into negotiations because China needs Google to maintain its liberal image. In the end, it is very possible that both sides will have to compromise, with Beijing agreeing to loosen its control on filtering word searches.

An editorial written by Feng Lei of Guangzhous Southern Metropolis Daily doubts if Beijing is willing to let go of Google. A company like Google not only serves as a technology leader in Chinas domestic market, but also, by virtue of its presence, has a catfish effect [raising overall performance in the industry]. Without this presence and effect, there will be a definite impact on the development of the industry domestically.

While Chinese media are waiting to see what the next step is for Google and the Chinese government, the most impacted groups -- Internet users and bloggers in China -- are taking action.

Immediately after the announcement, Google fans organized a candlelight vigil at the companys headquarters in China. They placed flowers in front of the Google sign to express their grief and disappointment over Googles potential departure. Photos of the vigil are posted online.

The most popular blogger in China, Han Han, also expressed his support for Google. He wrote on his blog, I understand Googles decision, whether it is for real or not. What I dont understand is that some Web sites conducted surveys saying that 70 percent of Internet users do not support Googles request that the Chinese government stop its censorship. While looking at these survey results on the government Web site, you often find yourself on the opposite side, adding that these Web sites should be the ones to be censored.

Other Chinese bloggers attacked Google, saying that the company was leaving because it simply could not compete.

A blog on Baidu.com, Googles biggest competitor in China, said, The tone of the top Google legal advisor disgusts me. He could have said that they are withdrawing for economic reasons, plain and simple. Instead, they have to make themselves look good by saying that Google was attacked by Chinese people, that Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents were attacked, and so on in order to explain why they are withdrawing from China. This type of tone is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary Chinese citizens.

On the Web site Sina.com, Xiang Ligang wrote a blog titled, Googles renouncing its Chinese operations is merely psychological warfare. The reason Google is having a hard time in China, she argued, is that there is a mismatch between American ideology and Chinese management style. In the Chinese market, Google has no intention of adjusting itself to adapt to the Chinese situation, but works according to its own ideology, she writes. Thats why, under media exposure during the anti-pornography campaign, Google could barely handle the situation and had to change its leadership in China.

Other bloggers questioned whether Googles possible departure from China is purely a management decision, or if shareholders ultimately will have the last say.

You san see how the capitalists reacted after Google hinted that it might withdraw from China, Jiang Baijing wrote in a blog on Peoples Net. As a result of the news, Google's share price dropped 1.3 percent, to USD 583.05 from the Tuesday closing price of USD 590.48. If the capitalists disapprove of Google's withdrawal, it may not have a choice.

Related Articles:

China: Revolution or Reform?

U.S. Colleges Turn to China for IT Training

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