Nov
25
2010

Google China: Survival amidst Controversies

Launch of Google China

The world’s largest internet search engine company, Google Inc., serves the Chinese mainland through its subsidiary, Google China. In 2005, Google China was founded with a Chinese language interface of the original Google.com to better serve its own country. The following year, Google launched the Google.cn search page and was programmed in such a way to give search results that would abide by censorship laws stated by the Chinese Government. Even though Google is known to be the internet search giant in other parts of the world, it ranks second in China to the home grown internet search site Baidu.

Journey since its inception

Google’s four year tenure in China hasn’t been that smooth. After announcing its intent to comply with internet censorship laws in the People’s Republic of China, Google China became a focus of controversy. In an effort to play a role in facilitating free speech, Google complied with censorship laws to participate in China’s IT industry. Had Google not complied, the Internet giant couldn’t have made it to the biggest internet market in the world.

The Controversy Series

Controversies started in March of 2009 when access to Google’s YouTube site was blocked in China. Since then other Google online services have been continuously blocked to users on an ad hoc basis.

This past January, Google announced its unpleasant experience of being hacked along with many other US tech companies in China prompting the Internet mogul to no longer censor searches in China as well as a potential pull out of the country.

What happened on March 23, 2010 was even more striking. Google began to redirect all search queries from Google.cn to Google.com.hk. (Google Hong Kong), which bypasses Chinese regulatory laws and allows uncensored Simplified Chinese search results. Hong Kong is vested with independent judicial power and is not subject to most Chinese laws, and they are also not required to follow the restriction of the free flow of information and censorship of internet materials.

David Drummond, senior vice president of Google, stated that the stringent censorship on internet information in China led Google to make such a decision. Hong Kong comparably enjoys a higher level of freedom of speech and expression, and google.com.hk does not need to censor search results. This creates a much more effective networking and information sharing experience for internet users in China.

He also mentioned that other internet services from Google such as Gmail are available to users in China. Google also planned to continue with the research and development offices in China along with the sales offices for other Google products such as Android smartphone software.

March 30, 2010, marked a significant day in the history of the company as searching with any Google search site – including Google Mobile – was banned in China. Google Mail and Google Maps remained unaffected. A statement from Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley and founder of the China Digital Times, said it was noted that Chinese Government can block all access to Google sites and application if they thought the services were violating the regulatory and censorship laws. The ban was lifted after a day.

On June 30, Google finally tried to end the feud by stopping automatic redirects of Google China to Google Hong Kong. Instead, links to Google Hong Kong were applied to avoid getting their Internet Content Provider (ICP) license revoked.

Service by Google in China

After much controversy about Google’s license renewal in China, Google Inc. surprised people with its announcement that Chinese authorities renewed its license to operate a website with the understanding that Google would stop redirecting users of Google.cn to the Hong Kong site.

Google users in China do not enjoy a standard service as Google.com appears to be down around 10 percent of the time. Google’s current search business in China accounts to billion in annual revenue, with analysts putting its annual China revenue at 0-0 million. Long-term growth prospects are easily the most important.

Google intends to abide by the Chinese censorship laws since China is the world’s largest internet market with nearly 400 million users. Other firms like eBay and Yahoo! have tried to cash in on China’s immense potential only to rethink their ideas.

China is expected to play a major role in other Internet sectors like social-networking, e-commerce and online gaming. It was evident that smart business strategy like the one Google used would not keep itself away from the potential market along with making it the one that is expected to be the largest in the field.

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