In a compromise move, Google announced they will not abandon the China market after all. Instead, they will move their servers and domain name to Hong Kong, while keeping their developers and sales personnel where they are now on the mainland.
Google's Hong Kong site will now offer uncensored search results in simplified Chinese for mainlanders, and in traditional Chinese for Hong Kong residents. Visitors to google.cn were already being redirected to google.com.hk on Tuesday morning. "We believe this new approach [is] a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced," said David Drummond, senior vice president of Corporate Development, on the Google blog Monday. "It's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China."
Not surprisingly, China sees things differently. According to the official Xinhua News Agency the head of the Internet Bureau called Google's actions "totally wrong," and said that "Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering on its searching service." The official also denied responsibility for a recent spate of cyber attacks. "[We] express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conduct."
Reactions to a ZDNet article posted here on Friday that called for Google to stay in China were mixed. Some readers expressed support of a policy of engagement, such as one who wrote: "Be a part of the change happening there at an unprecedented pace rather than standing on some self delusional high ground." Others regretted the potential business ramifications. "Google is good in technology, very bad in business," wrote one poster, who added: "The Chinese market is one that they should never lose."
The Hong King Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily ran quotes from the article, saying "Ed Burnette, a columnist from adnet.com[sic] under the Columbia Broadcasting System Corp (CBS) says it was 'a pity and an avoidable mistake' for Google to retreat from China." Not too bad for an English to Chinese to English translation. Sing Tao Daily's story was picked up by the Xinhua News Agency as well.
On the other side, many comments posted on this site were in favor of Google's original threat to leave the country. "In the face of recent events I can't see how a presence in China would add anything positive to Google's strategy of openness," wrote one reader, who noted: "To stay in China Google must stop being Google, it's as simple as that." Another agreed, saying, "Thank goodness at least one American company is willing to stand for freedom and human rights."
"I want Google to stay," wrote one commenter, "while disregarding the Communist's attempt to force Google to obey its censorship, until they get thrown out." It looks like that may be precisely the strategy Google has decided to try.
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