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The Time of Han Han (2) +Ulterior Rant

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Uterior Motives

Here is an update to yesterday’s review of Han Han, with some additional info about the Time nomination, which might be more important than it appears at first sight.

Then, if you stay till the end of this chapter, we will put on the yellow socks to analyze a bit more that terrible scourge of our times: the Ulterior Motives. This is for the benefit of all the puppet journalists and researchers who enjoy using that phrase, please pay attention.

The comments today come in the form of title-paragraphs, to allow for easy skimming:

1- The rules of the Time 100 are often misunderstood and heavily criticized, especially after internet star moot hacked the online poll last year and turned it into a joke. However, what you should keep in mind is that the internet poll only selects one of the members of the Time 100 list. That is, only the top person in the online poll makes it into the final official list, and in the position that Time editors decide. To be fair, it does make sense to include at least this one person from the poll, as it is representative of online mobilization power (when it is not hacked). Click to continue »

The Pioneering Demise of the Chinese Press

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The debate about the New Media and the Death of the Newspapers has been raging for years on the free internet. In the Chinese intranet [1], however, this question doesn’t raise so much interest, because journalism here was already murdered long ago by the hideous hand of the censors. It is for this reason that Chinese papers are today at the forefront of the media’s demise.

Without any more preambles, let me introduce you to the Oriental Morning Post, one of the two big morning papers in Shanghai. Here are some of their front pages this week:

19th to 26th March

Look at these front pages carefully, have you noticed there are adverts? Yes. I buy this paper every morning and I was very excited to see they have found an innovative way to face the crisis: just get rid of the news and replace them with ads. Gray Lady, Mr. Murdoch, are you paying attention? Herein lies perchance the salvation of the press. Click to continue »


NOTES:
  1. Yes, intranet, from now on I refuse to refer to this joke as the internet until the retards controlling the GFW understand the meaning of World Wide Web []

Google vs China: It’s all in the form

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

imagesSo 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. Click to continue »

Will Google.cn continue in exile?

Monday, March 15th, 2010

This morning I was doing some tests on Google to see if there was any change in the search results, and I noticed one detail I had not thought of before: although everyone is describing Google.cn as “hosted in China”, the IP is American, as you can see on whois.

In fact, other than the deals with advertisers (the revenue-generating part of the business), there is little of Google.cn that is really in China. The data collected by Google.cn is a valuable asset for the company and it is kept in the US databanks, together with all the other Google countries indexes. Among other reasons, because Google.cn is nothing more than Google.com translated and censored for the Chinese.

This made me think of a possible outcome I hadn’t thought of before: that Google.cn may uncensor its content completely and continue to function normally served from the US, hosted under a different domain (since .cn extensions are controlled by China). From a practical point of view this wouldn’t make any big difference, as it would just be a copy of Google.com in simplified Chinese. But from a political and “face” perspective, it could be extremely damaging for Google relations with China, and probably lead to GFW of all Google services. Click to continue »

Sex and Conservatives in China (2) [NSFW]

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

SP32-20100312-192923Disclaimer: In the interest of science, this post contains sexually explicit material. If you are underage and/or a sensitive person you are advised not to scroll down. If you don’t read Chinese it’s OK.

This is the continuation of the previous post in the series, where we ended up rambling off the main topic and into a thick soup of political terms. Today I am back to impose some discipline. The article was meant to be about sex, and sex we will do. Just stick around for a few paragraphs of theory, or scroll right down to the examples if you prefer.

The question we considered last time was: why communist regimes, most of which have abolished religion at some point, are in fact among the most puritan countries regarding porn? Which can be otherwise formulated: why are Chinese commies so prudish? With the ever growing impulse of the porn censoring machine, this may well become one of the fundamental questions to understand modern China. Click to continue »

Keep your War out of our Internet

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

no-a-la-guerra (1)The case of Google’s new approach to China is moving slower than expected, but I have the feeling that we may see something happen pretty soon. After the New Year, the Double Meetings are almost over and the Chinese government will probably want to have this cleared before the next big item in the agenda, the Shanghai EXPO. If we are going to see an end to the Google case, my money is on March/April.

And really, the sooner we close this the better. The media are getting bored of the wait, and they are filling it with a wave of horror stories about cyberwar, all of which may be hurting Google, hurting US-China relations, and generally insulting the intelligence of netizens.

There have been reports of all kinds regarding the cyberwars, from the crazy wingnut ones to the relatively relaxed. All follow in the line of a completely muddled Google message and subsequent speech by Hillary Clinton. This article by the the “liberal” Wapo was one of the first to come out, and right from the opening paragraph it sets the mood for all the other cyberwar press that followed. Click to continue »

YOU have been condemned to 劳改!

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Reform through labour camp in construction. Pending forced evacuation of previous residents of the area.

Welcome to the 劳动改造 Camp for Reform through Labour. You have been sent here to receive treatment for your 思想僵化. You don’t know it yet, but you suffer exactly the same illness as the people here. Don’t worry, it has a cure: all you need to do is relax, read some books, make some friends, and get a normal life outside the internet.

While you are in the camp, you should practice self-criticism and ardently study the Thought of Youren:

  • This blog is about China, I don’t care what you think of my country.
  • I’m not from 外国, and I don’t represent the official position of 外国.
  • This blog is not against anything except lies and foolishness.
  • A government that doesn’t accept critics from its people is always a weak government.
  • Communism does not work, if it did then the Communist Party of China would actually use it.
  • China suffered injustice in the past, caused by the greed and brutality of some foreign countries, and by its own selfish leaders. I am quite familiar with the history of China and I don’t need constant reminders of these disgraceful events, thank you.

Once you have studied the thought above, go to this website and memorize the complete Thought of Mao Zedong. After you finish your 思想革命化 you can come back to my blog.

.

Sex and Conservatives in China

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Sexy_Costumes_Classic_Officer_Fr_RU888501_7496

It looks like Charles over at the new China Divide blog has found a new source of clicks to revive the China blogging scene: debating the crackdown on pornography in China.

While I don’t usually support any kind of censorship, I have to say I couldn’t care less for the cause of porn in China. From what I have seen, sex peddlers are the most disgraceful, spammy, virus-ridden and generally useless sites of the internet, and they distract netizens from doing more important things like reading my blog. You can be sure that you won’t find me in the ranks of the protesters when those websites get banned.

There is however a more important problem with banning porn, and it is that the definition of the Chinese authorities goes way further than what we usually understand as pornography. It applies to some wonderful works of art, including films such as An Lee’s Lust and Caution, or this great TV serial and book by Liu Liu. It is used to marginalize some excellent artists like Tang Wei, and in general it contributes to further stifle the creativity of the Chinese literary and artistic scene.

To be sure, many times the banning of “unhealthy” content is just an excuse to get rid of dissidents or to justify protectionist policies. But generally speaking, when Chinese authorities act against porn it is out of a genuine ethical concern. And here is where I see a more interesting angle to the discussion, linking up to the question I asked last year in the post about TV serials and communist ethics: why are the commies so prudish?

From my experience living in various communist and ex-communist countries, I conclude that this is not a strictly Chinese phenomenon. In fact, it is not even a communist phenomenon, but rather a common characteristic of conservative people everywhere. I maintain that the reason why erotic content is banned in China is just that the CCP is an extremely conservative organization, and as all conservatives everywhere they abhor public displays of sex, even if in private they might think nothing of going to the brothel 5 times a week.

Why then, do conservatives tend to have this particular attitude in common towards sex? And in particular, why are communist regimes, all of which abolished religion, at the forefront of sex related puritanism?

The Red Conservatives

First of all, I want to add here a definition of conservatives, just to avoid having the whole discussion turn around the meaning of a word. Like most political terms, this one can have different meanings in different places. The meaning I use for this post is one that I think is most intuitive and understood internationally. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Political attitude or ideology denoting a preference for institutions and practices that have evolved historically and are thus manifestations of continuity and stability. It was first expressed in the modern era through the works of Edmund Burke in reaction to the French Revolution, which Burke believed tarnished its ideals through its excesses. Conservatives believe that the implementation of change should be minimal and gradual; they appreciate history and are more realistic than idealistic.

In the case of communist countries like China it is always complicated to use the normal political terms of conservative/progressive, or right/left. The reason is that during 1949-1978 the paradigm was changed, and the old conservatives were exterminated. As a consequence, a  “new country” was created from zero, so for the purpose of Chinese political life, the “institutions and practices that have evolved historically” only count as defined in the history of the Communist Party. And the conservatives in China tend to be communist.

This phenomenon is hardly unique. It follows the logic of revolutionary movements everywhere obtaining mainstream power: their focus suddenly shifts from “changing the world” to “maintaining the status quo”, and conservative mindsets normally take control.

It is hardly necessary to explain this to anyone who has lived in China, but I have the feeling that some Americans still find it strange to call a communist regime “conservative”. If you think all this is just intellectual blabber, you are missing the point. The supporters of the CCP are genuinely conservative people and they behave exactly as you would expect from a conservative elsewhere.

From my conversations with some passionate young men in the CCP, and my long chats in the internet-less nights of North Korea, I have a reasonable understanding of what moves those convinced “communists”: they dislike foreign influence and they attach an absurd importance to nationality and ethnicity; they are averse to anything that sounds like free thinking or questioning of the old ideas; they like to marry traditional girls, pretty by the old canons, who don’t wear mini-skirts or speak too much in public; they don’t like homosexual people and they are quick to call “whore” when a girl behaves exactly like many men do.

The tragedy is that these conservative people will never be able to connect with their counterparts in America, because both sides are still bound by their own religious and Cold War rethoric. Someone should invent a party with the slogan like: Conservatives of the World, unite!

A soup of political terms

I am going to have to cut this here for today, because my new blogging policies don’t let me do more than 1000 words per post. We will continue in the next one, but before I finish I want to mention the very interesting problem of political terms in China.

Due to the reversal of paradigms mentioned above, there is still a good deal of confusion in the West about which English words should be used to name the different ideologies in a communist country. I am no scholar in Chinese politics, but from the books I have read on the subject (including academic works like Victor Shih’s) I get the impression that the terms are not standardized. The only book I have seen that attempts to do a taxonomy is the little manual: “What does China Think” by Mark Leonard.

I am hoping that someone will lend me a hand here and point me to some other resource where I can look this up. In the meantime, from what I remember of that book and my own initiative, the main denominations go as below:

Old Left: Hardliners in the CPP who want to revive Maoism. Contrary to the West, these lefties are actually very conservative people.

Old Right: Admirers of Taiwan and the KMT, practically invisible in the mainland today. I never met one, so not sure if they are conservative characters or not. I assume many members of the FLG would respond to this description.

New Left: Politicians like the Prime Minister Wen, who push for more social policies, equal distribution of the wealth, etc, within the rule of the CCP. The mindset is still conservative, but less than the Old Left.

New Right: Politicians, thinkers and some business sharks inspired in Deng Xiaoping’s “get rich first” who want to give priority to the coastal regions and build a ruthless capitalist system. They don’t have any mindset because they are too busy getting rich first, and they don’t care about political ideology as long as their cats catch mice.

Right Left: This is my own dysfunctional term to include people like Xu Zhiyong or Liu Xiaobo, as well as some within the CCP who call for political reform, democracy and civil rights. Many of them are not dissidents, but just brave party members who dare to raise their voice. These are the only ones that respond to the idea I have of “progressive” mindset.

What do you think of this terminology?

NOTE: This list is not meant to be taken as reference, but rather to invite participation, please do propose any term you want, or point me to some good read about modern Chinese politics. For those who came here to find some sex, please come back tomorrow when I will continue with the main subject of the post and I will attach SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES of Chinese. Have a nice day.

Google Buzz blocked in China!

Friday, February 12th, 2010

SP32-20100211-184445

NOTE: For those readers who’ve been offline for the past 3 days, this is a post about Google Buzz, the new Google service that has invaded the World’s mailboxes this week.

But take it easy, hold on a sec, don’t rush to your GFW test tools, this has not happened yet. I just want to be the first to announce it and get all the credit, since I am 90% certain that Google Buzz will be blocked within a week. The remaining 10% I am hedging in case the GFW censors get too high on Baiju over the New Years and their reactions are a bit slower than expected.

Look, I hate playing blogger of doom, but this is just how China works today. I’ve heard a few opposed opinions from bloggers I respect, and I am ascribing that to wishful thinking. There is no way Google Buzz is going to continue open, here is why:

  • Gbuzz is attracting very fast a larger number of users than Twitter or Facebook in China, due to its use of Gmail, a relatively popular email service here.
  • The viral transmission potential of Google Buzz is extraordinary, and very appealing for the Chinese way of using the internet. In the first 24 hours of GBuzz in China the popular Chinese bloggers where getting far more comments than pioneers like Robert Scoble.
  • After their recent controversy with the Chinese authorities, Google put Gmail (and now GBuzz) on HTTPS, which means that the GFW cannot  see the content flowing inside China. They cannot block particular users or keywords, and neither can they force a self-censorship of Google as they did with the Google.cn, for reasons both technical and political for the Google company.

So what we have here is a means of massive viral communication, completely out of control and with a potential to piss off the Chinese authorities that may be second only to the Epoch Times.

A Real-time Simulation

For those who still don’t agree with me, I have used my old engineering supercomputer to do a real-time simulation of the upcoming events, starting from yesterday, when most Chinese Gmail users got access to GBuzz. The first 4 steps have already happened as of February 12:

Step1: GBuzz is rolled out in China and within hours the popular bloggers are getting streams of comments in the few hundreds. One of the first subjects of discussion is whether the Buzz will be blocked or not.

Step2: Some Chinese users start timidly testing the system with unmodified swearwords and taboos, such as Caonima and Malagebi. Euphoria: no comments are deleted or blocked!

Step3: - After 12h some Chinese users are already sending pictures of beautiful ladies with a peculiar tendency to wear less and less clothes even as the winter is hitting back hard on the mainland.

Step 4: Bloggers like Han Han or AiWeiwei discover GBuzz and start broadcasting there. Not only their posts, but worst still, the flow of comments is out of reach of the Chinese authorities. Comment threads are by now in the tens of thousands.

Step 5: The next big viral event hits the Chinese internet, and seeing that all comments get erased on the other blogs and microblogs, even more people starts flocking to GBuzz.

Step 6: By now most netizens have understood that GBuzz is their GFW free day out. Uncensored photos of Edison Chen or drunken party cadres recirculate widely, people even write appraisals of the performances. More than 50% of the words on GBuzz worldwide are in mandarin characters, and about 10% of them are some form of 妈/逼 word construction (mother /cunt).

Step 7: The early days of FOS were rather hectic, but the people finally realizes the advantages of communicating freely. The divide between the Chinese internet and the rest of the world is disappearing quickly, and Google Buzz has written a page in World history.

… in the meantime, somewhere in the middle kingdom…

the evil 5Mao teams of netizens sold to the the party have caught up with GBuzz and are calling their bosses in the propaganda department to wake up from their baijiu dreams and show up at the GFW headquarters with red tape and pruning shears…

Conclusion

OK, I think you get the gist by now. And the conclusion is this: there is no way GBuzz is going to remain open in China. The only question remaining to answer is what will happen to the rest of the Google services, in particular Gmail and Google.com (G.cn is already doomed in my books).

I see here 2 possibilities:

1- Google Buzz could technically be blocked without blocking GMail, in spite of their integration. The GFW could achieve this by using intelligent URL blocks on the #buzz string that appears on all the buzz URLs. Easier still, since they are in negotiation with Google, they could ask G to facilitate the blocking of GBuzz in exchange for GMail remaining open.

2- GBuzz might go down and take down with it all the Google services in China once and for all. Especially this can be true if the negotiations between Google and the Chinese government are not as smooth as I supposed lately. This has happened already in Iran, and I am certain most leaders in the CCP wouldn’t even  blink. Or does anyone think they care about the outside opinion on China’s freedom of speech?

So this is only a 2-way dilemma, I don’t see any other solution. The final outcome of the Google vs. China affair is coming very soon, precipitated by the unexpected birth of GBuzz. Neither Google nor the CCP can afford to wait much longer, as the pressure is mounting on both sides. The end is near, fasten your belts and turn on your VPNs.

And Happy New Year of the Tiger

And now I am going to close the computer, leave the office and take a flight to a certain tropical destination in South East Asia where I intend to spend my New Year’s Holidays. When I am back to Shanghai on the 22nd, Google Buzz will be over in China, and I will be just in time to pick up the pieces. I look forward to a whole new series of posts on the year of the Tiger.

Happy New Year to all, 恭喜发财!

Why it’s Good that Google.cn Leaves + SEM (2)

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

GoogleAngel2_thumb3Back on the job. On re-read, I have the feeling that I might have been too optimistic yesterday. Sure, the style of Google’s announcement betrayed personal involvement, and once at the negotiation table it is to be expected that a more businesslike atmosphere will prevail. But even if G shuts up, it is not sure that the CCP will let them get away with it. Depending on who they have at the table, the outcome will be anything between the two extremes we have considered.

But let’s leave our bipolar guesswork aside for a while, so we can concentrate on a more interesting issue. Namely, that it’s great that Google.cn is going to disappear, and that whatever happens to the rest of the Gs, the Chinese internet will be a better place when Google.cn is gone. Let’s start with some crude survey work:

Baidu, Google.cn or Google.com?

I improvised a little survey today in the office, where I asked three of my young Shanghai colleagues which search engines they like to use. Interestingly, the answers were very similar, and all included some form of the following statements:

  • Baidu.com is better for local information and Chinese culture.
  • Google.cn we use sometimes for international information.
  • Google.com? Nah, that’s for foreigners.

These results are surprising, because as we saw yesterday, Google.com and Google.cn are exactly the same engine.  It doesn’t make any sense to search on Google.cn, where anything as innocent as 胡锦涛 (HuJintao) is obviously SEM manipulated. For the first experiment of the day we can see how, using this slightly conflictive term, results start to differ between G.com and G.cn. Try the links, see where there’s a Wikipedia article missing?

But the best of all is the answer given by the sample colleagues when I insist on why they use Google.cn: Oh well, the browsers here  direct you to Google.cn by default. That is probably the main reason why G.cn is ranked 3rd on Alexa for China, while G.com is only ranked 6th.

Hey, wait a second. Are you telling me that all it takes to get an identical, non SEM-ed Google Search in China is to type a “.com”, and 300 million netizens haven’t noticed in the last 4 years? Well, yeah. Kind of. Let me introduce you to:

The Chinese censorship and its peculiar victims

This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Chinese censorship in the West. I realized this with the crazy Wang post, the one that was linked in an article 3 days straight on the Most Read list of the New York Times. I got lots of hits, and also lots of mail from creative Americans proposing ideas to help “free the Chinese” from the claws of the GFW.

But listen, the sad reality is, the CCP’s systems of censorship are so effective not because they are diabolically sophisticated, but because… because the Chinese netizens can’t give a damn if they are being censored by their government or not.

You don’t believe me? Then perhaps you have a better theory to explain why nobody uses the widely available, free web proxies to surf the internet. Or why the majority of Chinese netizens still use Google.cn when they have an identical search engine that is not manipulated on Google.com

Shocking, right? But not so much. The truth is that, in spite of popular funny memes and the occasional juvenile rant, the majority of Chinese who are rich enough to use the internet are happy with the status quo. They do find it mildly annoying to be treated like children by the CCP, but as long as the bills are paid, they don’t think so much of it.

And this is also why, if someone wants to create a device against the GFW, the user activated systems like proxies or Tor are not effective, because people simply don’t use them. The idea of a Server Side Proxy, or the Unblockable Host that would unblock a site WITHOUT action by the end user, was discussed here, and I concluded it was not feasible.

This is also the reason why initiatives like Chrter 08 never make it in China: it is not about users trying to get access to dissident sites, it is about dissidents unable to market their ideas to a general population that is unreceptive.

Advanced SEM for Dummies (Search Engine Manipulation)

The most amusing thing in the Google crisis is all the commentators crying about the loss of Google.cn and its negative consequences for the freedom of the Chinese. In fact, I maintain that Google.cn is the most evil product to ever have existed in the Chinese internet, and the World will be a better place without it.

That is because, unlike the Chinese official sites that practice censorship, what the search engines do is manipulation. Why? Because Google.cn is not a content site in itself, it is a gateway to the internet. When people type in a keyword into the search field, they are actually trusting it to return a fair picture of what is on the net.

When you type a “sensitive” term and G.cn removes all the results except the People’s Daily and Xinhua, Google’s responsibility is double: not only it supports those often objectible views on the first page, but it also implicitly states that it is the ONLY opinion existing in the World.

And the worse is, the Chinese who believed that would be right to do so, because Google’s well known principles clearly specify their commitment to give all the information available  in a democratic way. The little warning message that is displayed on Google.cn SEM searches is meant to avoid this situation, but it is tiny and often placed right at the bottom of the page, so most Chinese users just ignore it.

In the case of Google.cn, SEM is not about “good” or “evil”. It is about breaking the very principles that give a sense to the Google company, and it is understandable that Google has never been comfortable with it.

TEST TRANSLATION GOOGLE.COM GOOGLE.CN
Neutral Word Shoe

Shanghai Pudong

Normal Results

Normal Results

Normal Results

Normal Results

Sensitive
Term
Hu Jing Tao

TNM massaccre

Normal Results

Normal Results

SEM  Results

SEM  Results

RC trigger string chinayouren.com/eng

Fallunggong

RC Block

RC Block

Normal Results

SEM Results

All tests in Chinese, English spelling is on purpose. The anomaly in the chinayouren string proves that in some rare cases G.cn does give better results that G.com, as SEM does not apply to petty disharmony. Click to continue »

Google: Good News + Advanced Study of SEM (1)

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Google Angel2You might be wondering why this story of Google is taking up so much space in this otherwise low-tech blog. I am as well. I think what fascinates me is the almost complete absence of first hand news after the G bomb. The time is for speculation, and for China bloggers and tea leave readers like me, it feels like we are right in our element. To the rest, welcome to China.

Yesterday I imagined a worst case scenario where Google let ugly international politics get mixed into this affair. That was just a scenario of doom, and not the outcome I consider most likely. In fact, I believe the G leaders are more intelligent than all that, and today I want to offer my personal, optimistic prediction. And to round it up, we will go back to the basics for a little study of Search Engine Manipulation, an essential and often ignored concept.

My prediction

I was glad to hear today that Google wants to retain its operations in China, and that it is “ready to shut down its local search engine Google.cn unless it is allowed to run it uncensored”.

The key info here is “shut down its local search engine”. This would mean that Google is not going to force the situation anymore. Because the best way to piss off the CCP today would be to suddenly uncensor Google.cn without notice, and have the Propaganda Department issue an official note to close the servers. The document would be in all the headlines, and that would represent  an unmistakeable challenge to the CCP’s authority.

But as it stands today, regardless of the old “face” arguments that some commentators have written, I don’t think the situation is critical. The CCP is not particularly happy to see Google leave, and if Google keeps its blogging enthusiasm under control, there is no reason why they will not be lenient. For all the bad points I noted in Google’s initial post, it has the great advantage of being ambiguous. Most Chinese people haven’t read the text, and the CCP can ignore the ultimatum implied and ascribe it to bad Laowai manners, a la emperor Qing.

I am predicting that if Google comes back to reason and avoids big game politics in the coming weeks, in exhange for that the Chinese government will let them get away with the rest.  Well, probably Google will encounter some administrative trouble in their business, their Android plans might take ages to get approved, because the CCP needs to give a lesson to other audacious companies in the future.

But that is a problem of Google and its shareholders. What really matters to us is the freedom and openness of the Chinese internet, and here is the big news of the day: if Google.cn closes and Google.com remains, the Chinese internet will be MORE FREE THAN IT IS TODAY! You don’t believe me? Keep reading to find out why.

Google.com and Google.cn

One interesting thing of the Google search engines that is not very well understood is the difference between the different country sites: Google.com, Google.cn, Google.co.uk, etc. People don’t understand this simply because Google does not explain it in the instructions, and because it has changed over time.

But it is very easy to do some tests and compare the search results to come to this conclusion: what really matters is not the extension of the search engine, but your actual location. The simple reality is that, for Chinese non-SEM search terms (more below), the results in China for Google.com and Google.cn are exactly IDENTICAL. They have the same results in the same order, differing only in the sponsored ads.

If you are in China you can try this by looking up neutral terms like 上海浦东 or 鞋子. Google.com and Google.cn share indeed a single index, and the only difference between them is SEM, or the Manipulation of Search Engine results artificially done by Google in its Google.cn search engine. For various reasons that we will see below, this SEM is the shame of Google and the curse of the Chinese internet. Not only China, but Google Inc. and the whole World is much better off without Google.cn.

This means that, if Google operates smoothly and succeeds to retain in China its PR&D operations, it is very possible that in exchange the CCP will allow them to keep Google.com unblocked (GFW). Then the Chinese netizens, free of the scourge of Google.cn, will click on Google.com, and automatically be free of the brainwashing effects of Google.cn.

Search Engine Manipulation (Introduction)

I know athe conslusions above might sound a bit strange, and there are clearly a few objections that you can make. Namely, that URL and IP blocks still affect the sites you find on Google.com, producing the beautiful Reset Connections (RC) that we are so used to. But there are very important reasons to prefer the Google.com way to the Google.cn way. I need to get some sleep, but stay tuned and tomorrow I will give you the explanation and some nice pictures as evidence.

In the meantime, re-read last year’s study on SEM, RC and all the other creatures. And to start heating up, I leave you with this nice picture of what a Google.com search gives in China, without VPN or proxy or any other special device. This has remained exactly the same in the two years I have been monitoring. There is no real technical reason why Google does not apply SEM here, it must have negotiated with the government when they first came to China, and the CCP must have bought that all Chinese would go to Google.cn. Click to continue »

Google: Don’t Make that Mistake

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

evil_googleLooking back to what I wrote last week I realize that, in my effort to keep a cool head and analyze the events, I forgot to say a very important thing: I Respect Google. I have never had any doubt of the non-business nature of their decision, and, in spite of our poll’s results, I am convinced it was based on the personal, ethical and political convictions of the company’s leaders.

I do not like the way it has been done, but it sure takes some guts for a CEO to defy the World order, whatever the company’s IPO said. My own site has been victim of censorship, and I was quick to blame Google when they helped censor initiatives like Charter 08,  so it is only fair that I praise them now. Search Engine Manipulation (SEM) is the worst kind of censorship, because it leads the user to believe that the information contained in search results is a fair sample of the World’s views. It was very difficult for Google to justify that behaviour, and it is good news that they stop being part of it. Bravo.

And yet, there are important reasons why Google has been putting up with the Chinese system for 4 years, and as far as I can see, all of those reasons are still there today. By leaving China on a whim, Google sends the message that all that work was just a big mistake. Worse still, by slamming the door on the way out, Google creates trouble for itself, for the Chinese netizens, and for the World internet community.

By any standard, Google’s statement last week is a disaster. It has all the sins that a company announcement can have, not only from the PR perspective, but also from plain common sense. It is insultingly self-righteous, it fails to provide a clear reason for the decision, and it does not offer evidence for any of the accusations. Worse still, it sends an ultimatum to the government of China, revealing a thirst of political power that is very disturbing in a corporation.

Brazen cartoon on the China Daily

Brazen cartoon on China Daily (WSJ)

The primary colors in Google’s logo and its simple slogan “don’t be evil” suggest a world of fairy tales where Good and Evil are clearly defined, and one can live following the Google path, righteously pointing out to others that they are in the wrong. Life is unfortunately more complex, and only very simple people can believe that God is always on their side.

Intentions and Nature of Google

I liked yesterday’s article by Rebecca Mackinnon because it rejected the idiotic debate about the purity of motive of Google’s leaders. On the other hand, I found it a bit too optimistic regarding the role of Google and the World internet community today. 

Google is no more or less evil than most corporations. The difference is it has a developed a unique business model that requires large amounts of trust and goodwill, and it has done a great job of promoting it up to now. To the point that in the online community, it has managed to reverse the classic roles, turning the radical hacktivists into CEO-huggers. Click to continue »