Opinion Brief

Google's China sidestep: Will it work?

Google is no longer censoring search results in China, but it's not leaving the country, either. Can Google have its cake and eat it, too?

Google followed through Monday on its threat to stop censoring politically sensitive search results at its Chinese Google.cn site, by redirecting mainland search traffic to its uncensored Hong Kong service. Hong Kong isn't governed by China's censorship laws, so Google insists the move is legal and should allow it to continue its research and sales efforts on the mainland. China says Google is "totally wrong" and breaking a promise. Can Google have it both ways, fighting censorship and doing business with China?

Google just lost four years of investment in China: Ceasing self-censorship in China is a "risky bet," and one Google probably lost, says Kim-Mai Cutler at VentureBeat. "China needs Google less than Google needs the country’s potential market opportunity," and faced with the threat to its authority, the Chinese government will almost certainly crack down on more Google services now. "A bittersweet day for Googlers as search giant turns back on China"

Everybody wins — except Chinese Web users: Google's supposedly "bold move in China" may not actually hurt it that much, says Brier Dudley in The Seattle Times. By keeping one foot in China, "both sides get their way" — Google gets to strike out at censorship "while staying open for business in China, and China's information repression continues on the mainland." "Google's China move: A compromise?"

Google could be making things worse in China: The likely outcome is that China just uses its "Great Firewall" to filter out unwanted search results from Google Hong Kong, says Blake Hounshell in Foreign Policy. But "a more troubling possibility" is that China uses Google's move to "trample all over" Hong Kong's special freedoms. "What Google's China decision means"

Google's right to quit the censorship game: China's reaction "certainly won't be pretty," says Jacqui Cheng in Ars Technica. But Google — a company whose motto is "Don't be evil" — is making China take responsibility for censoring its citizens' Web access, and that's the right move. Whether or not Google's bottom line is hurt, give the search giant credit for finally "walking the walk after talking the talk." "Google sends China users to Hong Kong for uncensored results"

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SEE MORE OPINION BRIEFS ON THIS TOPIC:Google to leave China: Bad move?

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