A Chinese official has blasted Google for "violating its written promise", following the U.S. company's decision to move its search traffic to Hong Kong while leaving just its sales and research and development teams in China.
According to a China Daily news report filed Tuesday, the unnamed official from the Internet bureau under the country's State Council Information Office, said Google went back on its agreement to filter its search engine. His allegation was unleashed four hours after Google announced in a blog post its move to Hong Kong.
"Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market, by stopping [the] filtering of its [search] service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks," the official said. "This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts."
Another report by CNN described the latest development as part of a "chess game" played between both parties, conjecturing that China's next move could possibly involve blocking access to Google.cn--a stance it has taken previously with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Google acknowledged this possibility in its blog, posted by David Drummond, the company's chief legal officer: "We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services." Drummond also noted that a Web page has been created to inform users of the range of Google services available in China.
According to one Chinese analyst, Google's stance smacks of "big power" gestures by Western countries harking back to the 19th century in attempts to prise the once-closed economy.
The unnamed commentator, who wrote in the Hong Kong-based Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily, noted that China's top leaders have themselves stressed the issue of opening the country up to the world. Google, however, is challenging the Chinese government's sovereignty by demanding it accepts Google's definition of "opening up", he said.
Impact on Chinese population
A CNN report suggests small businesses in China, specifically those using Google Docs and Mail, could be the biggest losers of the search giant's decision to move most of its operations to Hong Kong. The local academic scene, which is peppered with students and researchers who use the search engine to stay abreast of their respective study fields, could also be on the losing end.
According to the report, over 700 Chinese scientists were recently polled by the journal Nature, and results revealed 80 percent regularly used Google to look for academic papers online, while 60 percent said they used the service to keep updated of new research.
A Fudan University graduate also chimed in, saying: "Students who care more about searching for quality information choose to use Google because it definitely provides better search results than [China's local search engine], Baidu. [Google's withdrawal] will force more and more students to use wall-climbing software [to evade China's censorship firewall]."
The engineering industry could also suffer, Beijing-based analyst Frank Yu pointed out in the report. "Google trains a lot of engineers. Sure, there are a lot of competent people here but now there is one less multinational that hires graduates and trains them at a higher level," Yu said.
He added that companies that rely on the company's applications are also threatened, as these services could "eventually be banned". "They are now one step closer to being blocked. We depend on this whole series of services for translation and storing documents. They are essential for running a small business or a startup."