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China blogs bye-bye Google

world Updated: Jan 15, 2010 02:07 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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“I felt hopeless. My life suddenly went dark,’’ Yin Deyi, 33, told the Global Times on Wednesday. The advertising planner in Hangzhou city shopped online for white roses to be delivered 1,500 km away to Google in Beijing.

As I click on googleblog.blogspot.com in Beijing, I can’t open it. But Chinese netizens have unleashed translations of the latest post and flooded the Chinese Internet with statements supporting Google.

On Tuesday, Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond posted a rare critique of Chinese cyberspying and censorship of free speech as reasons for the search engine to consider walking out on the world’s biggest Internet market and its China offices manned by 700 staff.

China is unlikely to lose face and back down on online censorship in this corporate cyberwar. But Google has scored by triggering mass debate against restrictive Chinese policies and online surveillance. China controls online criticism to avoid waves of discontent spreading among the 360 million netizens.

Tiananmen Square was a top search item on Google.cn the day the Internet giant ended online censorship in China.

Many Chinese parents still don’t discuss the pro-democracy protests of 1989 with their children, and many citizens still disbelieve that tanks were used against student power. The iconic ‘tank man’ photograph of an unknown Chinese man confronting military tanks now pops up on the searches. Google.cn had agreed to censor politically sensitive content when it launched in China in 2006.

Google’s exit strategy came at a time when global brands flocking to China don’t dare criticise local restrictions. This month, China surpassed Germany as the world’s biggest exporter and is poised to overtake Japan as the second-biggest economy. “Google’s exit from China will be a slap to the government, which has long been under criticism by the West over human rights issues...’’ the Global Times quoted Lu Benfu, director of the Internet Development Research Center at an official think-tank, as saying.

The Global Times was the only government-run newspaper to give more than a muted report about Google. The China Daily called the move a pressure tactic.

On Thursday, two days after Google’s announcement, the foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told a briefing that the Chinese Internet is ‘open’ and China welcomes global Internet companies. In Beijing, we’ve given up wondering when Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will re-enter China’s ‘open’ Internet.