Ronnie05's Blog

Sino-Google Conflict (Part IV): The Impact of Information censorship on free information and societal development

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on January 20, 2010

If Google walks away entirely from its business dealings in China, it’s unlikely that other U.S. companies will follow it out the door. However, they might be emboldened to speak up in the future when they encounter uncomfortable restrictions imposed by the country’s government. A possible Google pullout could also anger China’s public and embolden other companies to vent grievances. China’s Internet-connected public has for long tolerated a gap between rapid economic and technological progress and a closed, secretive political system. The political outcome of this stand-off is that it could stir up a restive group of people, which is the younger people and the Internet users in China who may look at access to information as a civil right. China’s potential Internet lobby is vast. China’s online population soared by nearly 30 percent last year to 384 million people, bigger than the whole U.S. population. It includes the Chinese elite of entrepreneurs and professionals who have benefited most from economic reform and usually support the ruling party. While, other companies that accept pervasive controls in exchange for access to China’s huge and growing market appeared unlikely to follow Google’s lead. Still, there could be less drastic changes in their relations with Beijing. There may not be a lot of foreign companies stand up and walk out of China, but you might see a lot more foreign companies standing up and being much tougher in dealing with what they consider to be an unfairness in market access and trade issues.

A good example of how the Chinese government “censors” page resuts that are considered Offensive to the Chinese Government!

Many in China’s public disagree, to judge by the bundles of flowers left outside Google’s Beijing offices in the period when the issue was on boil and pleas on Internet sites for it to stay.It was a striking show of support and affection for an American company in a society where foreign investors have created millions of jobs but are regarded with distaste by some Chinese officials and a vocally nationalistic segment of the public.

Google also has millions of Chinese admirers. One group created a Web site, hosted on a California blog service, whose plaintive title says it all: — Chinese for “Google, Don’t Go!” Such sentiments might extend to the princelings, children of the communist elite who have played on family ties to make fortunes from partnerships with foreign investors and might be uneasy about alienating them.

Chinese and foreign businesses rely on Google’s email, maps and other services based abroad, which could lead to disruptions if authorities try to retaliate for a Google pullout by blocking access to its U.S. site.

The conflict also could fuel trouble for China’s companies abroad, where its swollen trade surplus and complaints about trade barriers are straining ties. Chinese investments in mining and oil face opposition in Australia and elsewhere.
Already, Chinese companies abroad will start hitting a ceiling caused by this stuff happening at home. Being Chinese might be a liability.

Beijing caused a similar uproar in 2002 when its new filters blocked Google’s main site outright. Scientists pleaded that they needed it to find information online. The government of then-President Jiang Zemin relented and eased access.
That was hailed at the time as a victory of common sense,” Clark said. “Will they be able to do it again?”

Political analysts say the government may be waiting to measure the level of public sentiment before deciding how to proceed

A compromise solution could also expose Google to some criticism after having taken the stand it would not countenance Chinese censorship

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