Google's China exit: Not as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

Google's China exit: Not as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

Summary: It seems inevitable that Google will leave China - but doing so won't be an easy process

TOPICS: China, Browser, Google

We've known for a few days now that Google's exit from China appears to be inevitable. Even though the company has said it was still engaged in talks with government officials, a hard-stance position by government officials on Google's proposed uncensoring of search results shows that Chinese authorities aren't willing to budge.

That, of course, leaves little choice for the Internet giant. But shutting down operations in a place like China is proving to be more complicated than just pulling a plug. A story in today's Wall Street Journal not only points out some of the loopholes that Google will have to endure for a clean exit but also makes note of the pleas being conveyed by Google partners in China who are worried about their own futures.

A letter from 27 advertising resellers in China to the head of Google's overseas sales team on Monday reportedly asked Google to try to find ways to work with the Chinese government. Recognizing that that ship has likely already sailed, the partners concerns have shifted to what happens to them when Google pulls out. The partners, according to the WSJ, say that their businesses are "facing operating pressure" due to the uncertainty surrounding Google's future in China and that many are facing bankruptcy.

Certainly, the partners are a concern - but so is the actual process of shutting down the company in China. The WSJ explains part of the complexity involved:

Google grapples with a slew of agencies that have a say over the Internet. These include the Ministry of Public Security, which deals with criminal activities on the Web, including political dissent; the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, responsible for broadcasting; and the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party, which ensures that the media adheres to political orthodoxy. For "anything that has to do with the Internet, you could be facing as many as a half dozen ministries," said David Wolf, chief executive of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing-based marketing strategy firm. And because Google is also taking this action in a "highly politicized environment and in a very public way," it is sure to have attracted the interest of China's State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wolf said.

The report goes on to note that it gets even more complicated because of in-fighting among governmental agencies who have overlapping responsibilities and are battling to expand their clout. In addition, regulations are often times not written down or made public.  Cutting ties with China, it seems, will take some time - more time than anyone with a stake in the process may care to wait.

Also see: Special Report: Google, China showdown

Topics: China, Browser, Google

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  • the culprits are in the US

    M$ agents have instigated the chinese government to investigate google.
    Google is entitled to restitution from the evil M$.
    Linux Geek
    • Of course!

      I think they are also the cause of thlydomide babies and they killed the Kennedy's! Damn you M$!!!!

  • Fortunately Google is different

    Unlike the many criminal American corporations that found it profitable to sell a share of their country's soul for a few dollars Google decided to stay true to their mantra and show that business does not have to necessarily mean lack of scruples.
    Great Kahuna
    • give me a bag now!

      A huge sense of nausea just came over me...really? It is the same ol' western holier than thou arrogance! Google is even worse than the other corporations, at least other corporations don't constantly tout themselves to be full of self righteousness, Google is symptomatic of the whole U.S. repuke culture of putting on the self righteous facade but will stab you in the back at the drop of a hat.
  • RE: Google's China exit: No as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

    Don't be evil!... The question is... is censoring the internet evil, because the Government pays you to? Is preventing people from looking at human rights issues from their own homes evil? Are the following websites so bad that Google should take the profits and prevent people from seeing them?

    Amnesty International (
    Human Rights Watch (
    Reporters Without Borders (
    Wikileaks (
    Falun Gong related websites like (
    USMRA (United States Mine Rescue Association) presumably for hosting information on mine disasters in China at
    Gold Country Seismic Station (

    which is more important..capitalism or free speech?
    • hands down, capitalism. easy question.

      you ever heard that bastion of american propaganda called the VOA ("Voice of America"). if you live in the US and don't sneak a listen from abroad, you won't: it's censored to americans living in america by american law. quit living in wishme land. put the words, (i shudder to do so), bomb, jihad and a host of target words in this post, and you'll, at the least, be audited by the IRS from now til kingdom come. each gov't has their ax to grind.

      come on, get a life that doesn't regurgitate '50s paranoia. say something INTERESTING about china, for a change.
  • RE: Google's China exit: No as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

    They have called a bluff at a high level and lost - for now! However I take the view that nothing can every really be changed if you you dont take part. Google should remain in China but use their contacts throughout the world to pressure the government there to be more open with their people. Walking away is admitting that you can never change anything which is not a good example to set the chinese community. They should put a clear statement on their browser in China that it is censored due to government regulation.
  • Extraterritorial Rights for Google? Why???

    There is and Researchers use that will continue to be available. market share is 6.7% against 37% for the two combined.

    Researchers use for their professional needs but all switch to for any other Internet traffic: sorry but won't be missed.

    Why Google imagines it is above the law of the land is beyond my imagination. The privilege of extraterritoriality started with the Opium Wars of the 19th century, which China well remembers.

    You would expect a Chinese company to obey U.S. law when operating in the U.S.A.; I fail to see why U.S. companies should not fall under Chinese law when operating here.
    • Yah, right.

      As far as we know, Google obeyed the laws of China, while the Chinese government did not. Government agents hacking into the Google infrastructure is legal in which country?
    • I agree - history repeats itself for the ignorant

      Perhaps the commentators should read history, for those that don't are doomed to repeat it. The Chinese tend to remember history.

      So, if you didn't want to reap what you sowed, you shouldna' sent warships up the Yangtze with guns blazing

      Wei Y?an, a distinguished but minor official, argued in the Gazatteer that the Europeans had developed technologies and methods of warfare in their ceaseless and barbaric quest for power, profit, and material wealth. Civilization, represented by China, was in danger of falling to the technological superiority of the Western powers. Because China is a peaceful and civilized nation, it can overcome the West only if it learns and matches the technology and techniques of the West. The purpose of the Gazatteer was to disseminate knowledge about the Europeans, their technologies, their methods of warfare, and their selfish anarchy to learned officials. It is a landmark event in Chinese history, for it was the first systematic attempt to educate the Chinese in Western technologies and culture. This drive for modernization, begun by Lin Tse-hs? and perpetuated by Wei Y?an would gain momentum and emerge as the basis for the "Self-Strengthening" from 1874 to 1895.
    • Right and wrong go beyond the law

      If the law said all Jews/blacks/gays/your-group-here had to be hunted down for extermination, and all people and all companies had to help, would that make it right? Would an ethical/moral company follow such laws, or resist them? I'd suggest we should follow laws that do not offend moral and ethical standards, and resist laws that do offend those standards, following in the footsteps of the Underground Railroad, to Ghandi, to the civil disobedience of Martin Luther King, Jr.

      There's a good argument that Google should never have entered the Chinese market when the laws of that government are so obviously evil in numerous ways. But having entered it, they are to be commended for now doing the right thing.

      One last thing: please don't trot out the tired old counterargument that the United States and/or the western democracies have problems too. That's not only disingenuous -- western democracies allow far more freedom of expression, freedom of religion, etc, than China -- but it's also just a smokescreen to distract from the central fact that China is a repressive state, one that deserves to be resisted.
  • Sorry but

    ...most, if not all, of the links you cite are accessible here.
  • You Mis-Estimate Google

    It owes answers only to its shareholders, among which we find the CIA and/or NSA.

    China will solve Chinese problems the Chinese way.

    Every country has the right to legislate its own laws and apply them to persons physical and moral on its territory.

    If Google feels its bylaws are holier than the laws of the country that hosts it, then it can go elsewhere: at 6.7% of market share it won't be helping rewrite the Chinese Constitution anyhow.
  • RE: Google's China exit: No as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

    China, Russia, former East Germany all claim the are the "Paradise of the Farmer and Worker" nice communist propaganda.
    There is no perfect system. However everybody can see the Capitalist/Socialist (USA/Europa) system is the best compromise. Just check
    how the Chinese Capitalist take care of there migrant worker. The old communist party bosses just hold on to there power.
    old mainframer
  • RE: Google's China exit: No as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

    Google is sticking to its guns and because of the attacks on its servers is leaving china. The sensorship is just a screen.
    What Google and the US should do is charge the attackers and if China will not extradite them hold the trials inabsentia.
    If the attackers are found guilty and if the court finds that the government of China was also guilty (as the partner or as a co-conspiritor) then prosecute them as the law allows.
    Let them have their day in court.
    And if the Chineese Gov is found guilty, use the already existing laws to do as the law allows, which in a case of a criminal conspiracy, take their assets that can be reached. (No more debt to china.)
  • question is...

    if Google didn't get hacked would they still be pulling out? If they didn't, would they be advocating a free internet in China or keep collecting money from them?
    • I agree - the morality of censorship has nothing

      to do with hacking.
      Hacking can be fixed through the law courts, but if censorship is the real issue, rather than the stalking (w)hor(e)s of capitalism, then Google should leave anyway.
      There are two issues here, not one.
  • RE: Google's China exit: No as much 'if' as it is 'when' or 'how'

    At some point "Governments" the US included will have to let go. Soon a dictator will no longer be able to control the people by "lack of information" and skewing the truth. How long this will take will depend on just what does happen in China. They think they have the resources but can you truly control access for 1.3 billion people?