Google vs China: It’s all in the formWritten by Julen Madariaga on March 23rd, 2010
So Google has done it finally. My worst predictions have turned out to be right, and Google.cn is living on in exile, challenging the authority of the Chinese government from Hong Kong. Speak of burning the bridges.
Like usual, most of the commentators our there got it all wrong. This is not about Google offering an open service to the Chinese from outside. If Google wanted to do that, they would quietly close down Google.cn and continue with their HK search site as they were already doing before. There is nothing new on this Google HK except the translation of the interface to simplified mandarin, a simple tweak that has little impact on usability for mainland netizens.
If Google really wanted the Chinese to enjoy free search, they could have tried to give some face to the Chinese government, instead of literally forcing it to retaliation.
But Google HK is obviously not a sustainable plan, it is just a gesture, an open challenge to the authority of the CCP. The redirection to this site and the welcoming message in simplified is clear enough in this respect: “welcome to the New page of Google search in China”. Take that, Beijing, we don’t give a damn what you say, anti-democratic freak.
One clarification in case someone gets me wrong: I have been one of the harshest critics of Google when it collaborated with the Chinese censors, and I support any action that could lead the Chinese government to stop censoring the internet. The problem is, I don’t see Google’s actions are conductive to this result, but quite the opposite.
It is all in the form. Even if Google is right to stop censoring (and I think it is), you cannot deal with a country like they are dealing with China. Google leaders are trying to do their significant bit, but they know nothing of diplomacy and they have messed this one up from the beginning. International politics is not business, the stakes are much higher, and form is essential. In this field, righteous accusations and challenges normally lead nowhere but to more entrenched positions, and ultimately it is always the people that foots the bill.
So now that Google has made its best efforts to get all its services blocked, it looks very likely that it will succeed. The people of China will not be able to use Gmail or the promising GBuzz anymore. The voices within the CCP that struggle for more openness are left defenseless, and the internet will be even more divided than it was before. A bad move for business, bad for the Chinese, and bad for a free World Wide Web.