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A new approach to China (googleblog.blogspot.com)
1145 points by SandB0x on Jan 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 368 comments



This is incredible. This is the first time, I have seen a LARGE company

* Putting its users above profits

* Stand up to Chinese Government.

Since accounts of human rights activists were targeted, this operation was clearly done at the behest of Chinese Government. I'm disgusted by the levels to which the Chinese Government can stoop.

It is time the world stands up to China. If a corporation, whose main aim is to generate profits can eschew it and take a moral high ground why can't the government do it? Are the cheap goods from china so necessary that it is not worth antagonizing China ?

EDIT: Additional details from Enterprise blog post http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2010/01/keeping-your-da...

It was an attack on the technology infrastructure of major corporations in sectors as diverse as finance, technology, media, and chemical

This is clearly an act of espionage by the Chinese Government. The bigger questions is whether these are the only companies targeted or the only ones discovered. This is not the first time, the chinese have tried something like this.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7970471.stm

The researchers said hackers were apparently able to take control of computers belonging to several foreign ministries and embassies across the world using malicious software


I am so proud of Google right now. It's hard to contain. It is high time somoene stood up to China and let them know enough is enough. I sincerely hope other corporations follow suit.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I am sure there is more to the story than is being let on now. I could only imagine the level of corporate espionage that is in play between China and Google. Good for Google calling them on it and making a broad public move.

As far as I'm concerned, Google has just turned me into a lifelong user.


And it started. Major news sites in China start to filter out this news which has been heavily reported several hours ago. I expected all Google service will be blocked by the end of today.

Edit: maybe not that soon. A second thought, current news block may be interpreted as a "saving face" for Google. China high officials may have that kind of thought and think it is for Google's own benefits so that they can still discuss with Chinese gov. Otherwise if it is spread, there is no room for discussion.


I'm not sure they can just block all Google services all of a sudden. What about mail. What about docs. What about turning off your Google Adwords account.


I think (judging by downvotes) that I am being misunderstood.

My thinking was along these lines: Mr Small Chinese Exporter wakes up tomorrow unable to access his Google Adwords account which is how he connects to foreign importers. He's out of widgets and wants to stop advertising them. He can't even suspend the campaign and they keep charging his credit card. That's bad business. I'm not sure China would want to do that suddenly even if they do plan to eventually block all of Google's stuff.

I took "al' Google service" to mean all the different Google products.


What happens to "Mr Small Chinese Exporter" is never a concern for such a government like the Chinese one ...


I disagree.


Historically, China would do that. Probably it'll depend on how many influential people actually use google docs and such. I suspect not enough.


Perhaps this was Google's strategy from the beginning. Introduce useful services into the Chinese market while accepting government restrictions, then when enough Chinese have become dependent on these services, try to negotiate the restrictions from a position of strength, knowing that China would not want to be responsible for leaving Google's Chinese customers without service.


The Atlantic's James Fallows ran a piece last year about how the Great Firewall works. Long read, but quite interesting.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/chinese-firewall


Why on earth is this comment being downmodded? Netscan makes a completely valid point. What China should, in my opinion, do is slowly phase google out; throttle traffic to google's servers and then release some news articles with false statements from google that they can't support the traffic.

Getting the people of China to willfully abandon Google would be good in the eyes of the Chinese government.


Be careful there, your commitment is no different from the conviction of a nationalist approving one's government's actions no matter what is done.

You being critical of Google is the only thing guaranteed to keep them in check.


The correct time to criticize organizations to keep them in check is when they have done something worthy of criticism. On the other hand, when they have done things worthy of praise, celebrating them is at worst a no op.


Mainly talking about his "lifelong user" statement.

Companies are fluid entities, constantly morphing and changing. Praising the action is where the focus should be, not the company.


> I could only imagine the level of corporate espionage that is in play between China and Google.

I'm not sure these types of interactions can still be described as corporate espionage. The fact that one of these parties is a sovereign nation creates wrinkle to this whole thing. (From what I understand China doesn't directly link themselves too closely with this but no one really thinks this isn't covert stuff being directed by their government.)


It's further muddled because China is a sovereign nation with significant corporate holdings.


Governments are basically corporations with varying degrees of public ownership that have monopolies on societal goods. I would consider this corporate espionage.

The US also engages in corporate espionage through the NSA in the interest of its defense contractors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Agency#ECHELO... (last paragraph)


Agreed, but Occam's Razor seems too tempting not to consider in this situation. What's more likely, that Google decided overnight to get wise to the 'evil-being' that they might have been underwriting in China for the last 5 years, or that the business circumstances shifted such that an exit from the Chinese search market made more sense for the company, and a story was thus spun?


> I am so proud of Google right now.

I am too, but I think we should remember that China's citizens were and still are being censored, killed, and tortured on a daily basis. Google was fine doing business with them and even assisting in their censorship. Only until Google found itself on the receiving end of China's baton did it finally decide to change their relationship.

They deserve kudos and a pat on the back for realizing that it's not good to bow down and comply with a government that tortures and locks up its citizens for speaking their minds, but they don't deserve any sort of hero worship.


> Only until Google found itself on the receiving end of China's baton did it finally decide to change their relationship.

Maybe Google is lying to us, but what they were saying is originally it was 'well, even if censored, we can still be a positive factor'. Now they are saying, 'our presence is being abused by the gov't. We are now a negative factor'.

I'm sure they aren't giddy about getting hacked, but if not getting hacked was their primary goal, I doubt complete withdraw from China would be move #1


I don't remember an instance of Google responding to the Chinese government request of information.

They did follow the government guideline and censored their results but that's a very minor problem compared to the good Google did by just giving access to better english based information than Baidu for example.

All of this is not question of black and white and I respect Google a lot more than Yahoo based on the way they behave (Yahoo did help directly to the arrest of a political activist in China see: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/19/technology/19yahoo.html)


I love that they made this announcement via a press release on their blog and not an 'exclusive interview' with a specific news outlet.


I agree with all of what you've said. The skeptic in me thinks that Google is using this attack as an excuse to offset the PR disaster when Schmidt said the if you have something to hide maybe you shouldn't be doing it speech.


Google is using this attack as an excuse to offset the PR disaster when Schmidt said the if you have something to hide maybe you shouldn't be doing it speech.

That's just insane... do you really think the two are comprable? Google would lose more customers by withdrawing from China than people who know, much less care in the least, about that quote...


That's just insane... do you really think the two are comprable?

1. Google is not withdrawing from China. They are merely deciding not to implement additional censoring measures to curry additional favor with the government.

2. They have been losing market share to an inferior but government approved search engine Baidu.

Why do you think Google China's Kai-fu Lee left after a few years in his highest position to make a relatively small startup when his track record shows he prefers large corporations like Apple, SGI, and Microsoft? Google knows they are losing ground and he was probably abandoning the sinking ship.

Another year of lost market share to government supported Baidu and the recent espionage was the last straw for Google to know that their current methods weren't working.

3. Why are you comparing them then? It's not like Google decided to make this happen so they could publicly denounce the Chinese government.

Considering their past practices with China, I would have expected them to keep silent on the matter. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that the Schmidt incident influenced the scale of their reaction.

If you think Schmidt's quote did not make a big impact , that's your opinion, not fact.


Please read the article to the end: "We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.". So no, they aren't willing to censor more. Wether they have more market share is an entirely different matter. It's about the decision to pull out of China. This could be the right or the wrong decision, only the future knows, but the decision has a big symbolic significance, that's what everyone is astonished about.


I did read the article to the end, and I find no fault with what I said.

They haven't decided to pull out completely from China yet. They simply said they might, and their main focus was to stop censoring as much as they can "within the law".

I am really surprised that you have been voted so highly as though you and many other readers here mistakenly interpreted this as an absolute sign that Google is going to withdraw from China.


Is this perhaps a misinterpretation of "within the law"?

"[...] over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all."

They talk of filtering as an all-or-nothing concept. They want to operate unfiltered search (not semi-filtered, or filtered to the extent of the law). "Within the law" refers to the fact that they want to accomplish unfiltered search in a manner that is legal and their statement is rather clear that failing that they will be shutting down.

You're right, though, that this being an ultimatum isn't stated in clear (binding) legalese—quintessentially their wording of "not willing to continue" instead of "will not continue". This is almost certainly intentional.

However, it is a press release that declares intent, generates expectations and has a common and obvious interpretation as a take-it-or-leave-it deal. From a public relations standpoint, Google would not benefit from doing something completely different.


Your interpretation is incorrect. Google have quite clearly stated that they are no longer willing to accept any censorship of their search results on Google.cn and that they are prepared to shut down their operations in China if it's not possible to legally run Google.cn without filters. As it seems unlikely that the Chinese government will permit Google to operate such an unfiltered search engine, Google is effectively announcing its exit from the Chinese market.


My interpretation is entirely correct. As of now, Google has not yet voluntarily withdrawn google.cn from the internet.

Just because you think it is sure sign that Google will withdraw does not mean that they will. So far this is nothing more than an empty threat.


I think you are probably partially correct in the sense that a company as large as Google is not comprised of one single personality. The decision making voices in Google could well run the spectrum from those advocating a moral line in the sand all the way to those bottom liners that were convinced that an action like this could well have enough PR upside to offset any potential losses in the Chinese market.


In regards to Kai-Fu Lee: his track record might be one of large corporations but now he spots an opportunity to capitalize on it and start something that will net him much more than working for a big corp ever could.

In China, business is like no other place. It is fully about connections and relationships and Lee is a unique individual -- he has connections from his days at all the major corps (Microsoft, Google) and finally he is using them for his benefit. If it takes off, he could be incredibly rich -- much more than the $10 million Google was (rumored) paying him. If not, he can always go back to any big corp: they will be falling all over themselves to have him.

Point being: you cannot correlate Lee's departure with a their projected performance.


Except that's not what he said, so...


I have to imagine they have also weighed the business calculus on this. Where they might lose in China for now, will enhance their reputation elsewhere - particularly given how they've come under increased criticism in a wide range of fields. This decision whether intentionally so or in keeping with their stated mission is highly symbolic.

Further, don't think this won't help them in China over the long run either. When a "glastnost" comes to China, as it did Russia, if they're clever about marketing, using Google could ultimately be a symbol of new found freedoms. The fact that the Chinese government has made it difficult for them to operate, given competitors an operational advantage and enabled hackers that attack them and other firms, must make it an easier risk to take.

Being the idealist I am, I want to believe, and I think there's a good probability that doing the right thing here, will mean greater profits now and in the future.


The more right you are, the more significant this is.

Already Google have made a lot of people believe that "Don't be Evil" is a good business strategy. Regardless of the truth of this sentiment, it is to the benefit of society.

The more the slogan is fleshed out and the more evidence accrues that this is indeed good business practice, the more companies will follow.


An additional thought: this could potentially be genius from a business strategy standpoint against Microsoft. I confess I've been weighing the possibility of switching to Bing for a variety of reasons but because of this I'm less likely to do so.

After the dust settles, if Google is able to change Chinese government policy on search that would be monumental. If they aren't and ultimately leave China, that puts the spotlight on other infotech firms particularly Microsoft which has far more to lose by leaving China. On the other hand, if Microsoft chooses to do nothing and stay, it reinforces in the minds of users internationally a key point of differentiation between Google and Microsoft.


The book "Creative Capitalism" features a discussion, sparked by Bill Gate's speech about the ability of tweaking capitalism somehow to serve the very poorest of the world.

The economist-headed detractors tended to boil everything down to companies charging higher prices in order to give money to charity. They then explain that this doesn't work because it is proven that customers will buy the ethical option online if it is of equivalent value and price.

Being from a marketing background, I immediately pricked my ears at the complaint marketers have at hand wavy economists. Even if we ignore the fact that the value of a product is completely subjective & that it is influenced in many ways on some of which have anything to do with the physical product, getting customers to choose your product when it of "equivalent price and value" is the no. one thing a whole heap of companies do. Think how much money goes into ads for washing powder.


Just a small quibble - I think you're creating a bit of a strawman in economists. Coming from both an economics and marketing background, I would suggest most economists believe that companies should act in the interests of their shareholders.

Charity can be a form of marketing just as creating a culture where at times short term profits may be sacrificed for long term benefits is also very much in the best interests of shareholders. Thus, the beauty of this economic system is that while you can profit by pursuing profit for its own sake (which can mean being charitable), I do think taking a principled approach results in more sustained and greater long term profitability - as I suspect irrespective of the outcome, this will be a case study for years to come.


I come from a somewhat similar background. I work in marketing and I am somewhat of an amateur economist.

I agree with you about the strawman. But many economists or more commonly, people with economics in their backgrounds take this sort of a view. They like to distil things to an economics "story." Sometimes this is a great tool. Sometimes this loses important info. Economics training does come with the danger of this kind of mistake though. I heard that there was a serious divide between students and old timers about Ostrom receiving the Nobel (the students didn't like it).

One "story" they (the against camp) told was: If being good is more profitable, companies will do it without being told. That's capitalism, nothing creative about it. If it isn't more profitable and they do it, they are forcing shareholders to contribute a charity of the company's choosing.

Another was the one I mentioned above. If you take an economics graduate, you may find that they're not sure what make of a world where getting customers to choose you're same price, same value product is the difference between non-starter & Unilever. It doesn't make sense to tell this story with the basic vocabulary of microeconomics.

In any case, some essays published in the book make this argument. I don't mean to suggest that all or even most economists would take this view. Great economists (like great anyone) are empowered, but not restricted by their tools.


I think most people in most companies feel similarly. Unfortunately they don't have Google's cash, so "keep the lights on" becomes a more important consideration than "don't be evil."


> Where they might lose in China for now, will enhance their reputation elsewhere

If this was Google's intent, I has certainly worked with me. This gives me more confidence that if I use Google's services, they are unlikely to fuck me around.


> When a "glastnost" comes to China

I think it's more accurate to say: If a "glastnost" comes to China. There's no rule of thumb that something like that is going to happen in every undemocratic country.


Also if a "glastnost" comes to China it probably won't do anything, same as in the USSR.


Wow, this is the conspiracy theory right here: Google already knows that "glasnost" is coming to China sometime soon though their own sources and tries to capitalize on it by doing preemptive strike and playing for the right party in advance.

To continue economic growth eventually freedom of speech and some civil liberties would have to be adopted. Ironically, if it happens any time soon it will feed conspiracy theorists forever.


I think the most amazing thing here is the way they are going about this.

I think it would be naive to imagine that this is a move based solely on ethics (but, then, you never know - I wouldn't want to do them the disservice of ruling it out utterly).

But to do it with such direct criticism of the Chinese government. Even if it is a veiled reference there can be little doubt about the claims. The only inference I can think of is that they are very sure (or have proof) it is the Chinese government that are responsible (I cant help feeling if it was corporate or extremist groups etc. they would be directly named - or at least more clearly referenced). It's a huge political statement.

Im glade I stuck with Google through the last few months and the spate of anti-google sentiment starting to emerge (the cynic might suggest this grand gesture is related...?).


I agree. It's practically a declaration of war. And someone on their PR team deserves some kudos for writing a release that makes some damning accusations very clear without ever stating them explicitly.


"I'm disgusted by the levels to which the Chinese Government can stoop."

Half of the surprise I received reading this article was my shock that the Chinese government would attack profitable companies like Google. Sure, they've always attacked foreign governments, but China's government depends on US companies spending Dollars overseas. Since consumer spending is down in USA, it only seems natural for China to start banking on the successful industries of today, like internet advertising. Is the political danger of human rights activists really worth more than the money that Google brings? Or were their egos so high that they thought they could get away with it, either by avoiding detection or keeping Google at status quo

Maybe the Chinese government + military is just too huge to get everyone to toe the party line.


Why are you surprised? Chinese companies steal designs and pirate US products as a matter of routine.


Because it looks like the attack is a government-based attack. As presented in the media, IP theft is par-for-the-course in China, but the only benefactors from reading the personal information of activists are those in the government, or those with strong government ties. This wasn't just a mere theft of intellectual property, this was a case of biting the hand that feeds China.

China needs money flowing into the country in order to sustain it's big growth rate. They've traditionally gotten it through dirt-cheap manufacturing costs and exports. Google's marketshare is small, but they're very well connected in the US and are probably the US company most likely to start a "China-free" product trend. If it takes hold, the US would get a little bit of extra leverage (something we've sorely been lacking lately)


The Chinese government aren't attacking Google. They're merely using Google to attack activists.

No doubt they do that to Chinese companies too, it's just that the Chinese companies will never complain publicly.


Last time I checked, the Chinese didn't need Google. They have communist party approved Baidu.


Google is not very big in China anyway, the Chinese gov't doesn't stand to lose much.


A company like Google saying that it isn't safe to do business in China has to at least annoy them to some degree.


What is really interesting to me (i live in china) is that now that they have made this public it is impossible for them to continue doing business in china. Due to the social rules here if they wanted to save the situation in any way it should have been done privately. Given that they are clever people they know that announcing this will kill the china business. It is in essence a "slap", "we're out of here".


Ah yes, face. How is the news spreading in China?


Try http://twitter.com/search?q=%23googleCN and translate.google.com


Why did this get downvoted? I didn't say anything incendiary and I don't think my statement was factually incorrect. The truth is, the Chinese government doesn't stand to lose much at all by blocking Google. Politics trumps business here - and even if it didn't, all blocking Google does is help promote local Chinese competitors, which is something the gov't likes to do anyway.


According to GiagOm "if the Chinese government bans the search giant, then Google could be walking away from about $600 million in 2010 revenues."

http://gigaom.com/2010/01/12/how-much-will-it-cost-google-to...


It doesn't matter what the current revenues are, or even the profits. The point is to be part of the fastest growing market in the world, and to be an option when many new consumers are choosing online services.

If Google is deciding that they don't want in on this, it's not about giving up millions today; it's about forgoing billions from the next decade.


"$600 million in 2010 revenues" But what's the profit, i.e. less the costs? And in what currency and which country's banks is that profit (if any)?


David Drummond on CNBC said that the value of the Chinese business was "immaterial either way". I don't think 600M is immaterial for G yet, so something's not right.

And given that the gigaom article incorrectly says that google has already stopped censoring, I'm inclined to believe they're randoming making shit up.


My high school US history teacher said this (during the ramp-up to the Iraq war): "Posturing for war can be very good, actually going to war is NEVER good."

The parallel here, in my mind, is that Google has an opportunity for accomplishing several things while "posturing" for war with the Chinese government:

* Put pressure on the Chinese government to change. This is the public-facing goal of the campaign. The cause.

* Make up for any negative press about privacy by reinforcing the idea that their users' accounts are meant to be completely private and secure.

* Align themselves with human-rights causes, garnering trust amid doubts about trustworthiness and projecting a policy on censorship.

Posturing for war will likely prove very good for Google, and may result in the Chinese government caving. But if they actually have to go to war, it will be painful.

In my mind, it would be ideal for Google to posture for as long as they can, and as loud as they can, and see if they can't get the Chinese government to back down at all. Any significant win, without going to war, could be cause to not go to war, for it could be wrapped up as the government "cooperating".

Never attribute to goodwill, that which can be more adequately explained by good marketing.


Actually, I think Google very definitely declared war on China by making very public, very damning accusations.

The Chinese government could not possible allow itself to be seen caving into a single corporation and Google now cannot allow itself to be seen going back on "Don't Be Evil".

This is the end for Google and China.

War should be avoided at most costs but not all costs. Right on Google.


My high school US history teacher said this (during the ramp-up to the Iraq war): "Posturing for war can be very good, actually going to war is NEVER good."

You had a history teacher who said this?!? Doesn't the period of history he teaches include the United States war against the Axis (World War II)? Yes, the United States delayed entering that war about as long as any country could, but it was on the right side of that war, and it was better for the world that the United States went to war in that case. (Similar points could be made about other countries in other wars; I mention the United States only because you mentioned a teacher of United States history.)


Maybe he meant that war is always evil, even if it is the lesser evil.


...actually going to war is NEVER good."

I wonder if African-American slaves would agree. Or West Europeans, especially those in concentration camps. Or South Koreans.


You could argue that those last two examples were suffering due to a country "actually going to war". Once that happened, there was more war to be had to return to balance.

I believe also that a large number of the slaves who ended up in America pre-Civil War were captured during tribal wars and sold, so you could argue that in fact all of your examples were caused by at least one party engaging in active violent warfare.


> "Posturing for war can be very good, actually going to war is NEVER good."

Does not compute. You cannot posture for war without occasionally going to war.


Saying something is never good doesn't equate to saying it never happens. And saying something can be good doesn't imply that it always is.


I hope this increases the pressure on other search providers to do the right thing. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese govt responds


And interesting to see how Bing responds...


I think this is the best thing that ever happened to Bing, not Baidu. Google users in China will not switch to Baidu, they will switch to Bing; they use google because they feel it has more unbiased results coming from a non-govt backed entity. To a chinese google user, Baidu is an ad search engine and a govt lapdog. I wouldn't be surprised if google's market share got snapped up by Bing if they do leave.


> It will be interesting to see how the Chinese govt responds.

Chinese Gov will be glad if google leaves - they have nothing to loose. Their credibility as an ethical government will be bruised, not that there was any credibility to begin with.


Don't assume that the Chinese Gov. are ignorant of PR dangers, they aren't irrational. It would be complex mixed feelings.


They can spin this easily. Google is showing porn images in their search results or some other bullshit story. They would do that, and it would make their local search engine Baidu look very good in comparison. They could also spin it as Google not being able to stand the competition and "look! Westerns can't help us, they don't know anything about us!"

They aren't ignorant of PR and they know when to apply force and when to hold back.


It seems they've already started that kind of spin. For example, in the wsj article:

"Chinese internet analysts said they were shocked by the Google announcement, but at the same time they understood the reasons behind its threat to back out of China. They said the cyber attacks have exposed Google's inability to protect its users' privacy..."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126335402591827235.html


> They said the cyber attacks have exposed Google's inability to protect its users' privacy

This can always backfire on them ... once groups like those at 4chan get working on Baidu :) And I'd be willing to bet that Google has a much more reliable security. Not to mention that this statement is kind of hypocritical ... since when are they concerned about privacy?

Also ... these PR spins won't work for them internationally ... since communism has a negative image, and this is one of the factors considered when extending a business to China.

So they have a more relaxed communism, allowing privately owned companies to thrive ... but look, Google announced they were hurt by the Chinese government, and apparently they weren't the only ones. Whom would you be more inclined to believe?

And Google is also good at PR :)


Yes they have spun things that way - spinning it as good news for them. But it won't hold forever. People are not ignorant - well at least not all of them, not all the time ;)


On the contrary, the services that Google provides are very important. It's hard for me to imagine China in the role of technology leadership that they'd like, without the support of Google's services.

I think that China's leadership needs to give serious thought to what it'll cost them if their industry and their people can't (legally) use Google.


They did use to block google regularly before Google came in China... And Baidu is quite a bit more popular with Chinese people than Google so I'm not sure if that will be the problem...

What might be bad for China though is all the investment Google made on research and the PR disaster (and the chinese government is very concerned with face).


I hope this increases pressure on other COMPANIES in general to do the right thing, especially in regards to China.


I hate to be cynical but isn't Google's share in China only equivalent to a pawn sacrifice? If you consider the brand++; in other markets maybe even a gain.


The latest numbers I could find place Google's search market share in China at 19.8%[0]. Sadly, I think 19.8% of China's internet users is much, much larger than the number of people who decide search providers based on the ethical record of the company.

[0]: http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2009/08/06/google-baidu-sw...


Google handles 29% of searches in China (vs. Baidu's 62%) [1] Thanks to javed for the reference.

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100112/ap_on_hi_te/us_tec_googl...


Isn't you charitable donation just a way of making yourself feel better?


".. in other markets maybe even a gain"

Google may lose out in other markets as well. Authoritarian governments will become weary of Google even more now.


What you say is true. Yet is this move in any way inconsistent with how Google has generally been running its business? To me that is the most remarkable fact in the whole affair.


They were willing to censor results. No more. I would say that is a big change in the way they are willing to run the business. Something about this affair must have stung Google. Either morally (going after human rights activists) or in business (increased risks of attacks and infiltration)


They censored results, yes, but I was always intrigued by the way they did it. In case you never looked into it, they implemented a system similar to what they do in the US with DMCA complaints: remove the offending results, but provide a notice saying that some results were removed.

Which is really a pretty bold step; rather than being a simple invisible removal, it was an in-your-face "your government didn't want you to see the results for this query" approach.


That in itself was a significant enough shift from their normal operating procedure for me to think of it as an exception, and they were bothered enough by it that they felt they had to justify it. Also their justification at least made some sense, so the decision that they came to wasn't entirely out of character with how they generally operate.


"Something about this affair must have stung Google."

Maybe China had promised Google clean networks in exchange for censorship?


And for all these years, Google China has done decent job by providing Google Pinyin, Goolge Music for China to the country. I really appreciate that. Hoping this decision was just a beginning of a bigger picture.


Which also makes their departure a bigger negotiating point with the Chinese government.


It is not a negotiating, it is a choice that Google already made by not censoring search result. Chinese gov is known for the attitude not negotiating with human right activists.


I checked google.cn and the results still seem to be censored. The blog post says they will stop the censorship, not that they already have. I think they're leaving the door open for the government to save some face here and approve it if it wants.

That said, they did not leave a whole lot of room for China to save face and that may be enough to sink any hope of progress on that front.


If it's an attack done by the Chinese government, then Google's withdrawal from the country would be welcome by them. It would increase the market share of Baidu, the local Chinese-based earch engine.

It is time the world stands up to China. If a corporation, whose main aim is to generate profits can eschew it and take a moral high ground why can't the government do it? Are the cheap goods from china so necessary that it is not worth antagonizing China ?

It's been time to do that for a very long time...cheap goods aren't worth it at all.


I agree, but are you ready to pay what it really costs to make things?


Yes, but I buy few physical goods relative to my income.


How often do you cross-post the exact same comment between HN and reddit?

http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/aouv5/new_appro...

Edit: I may have jumped to conclusions; the individual on reddit may have very well stolen your comment in which case my accusation is invalid.


If it's the same article, why shouldn't it be the same comment?


What's so wrong with saying the same thing in two different conversations?


Nothing, as long as it's the same person saying it.


That is not my reddit id and even if it was what is wrong with doing that ?


I didn't mean to imply that anything was wrong with it, I was just going to see if you often cross-posted.


Almost everyone who responded to your comment thought you implied it was wrong :) I thought so because you used the word "accusation"


I read it like that initially as well, then I figured it might be the reverse.


the individual on reddit may have very well stolen your comment

I did, thought of it more as a social experiment than theft, though. Apologies to boundlessdreamz, if he cares...


I do care about it a bit because that comment contains personal opinion/commentary. If you had copied only the "data/facts" there would have been no problem.


OK, I'll delete it. Sorry.


That's pretty low.


Actually, I think it's kind of interesting. Granted, it was impolite to crosspost the comment from boundless without asking first, but this could be an interesting thought process. I'm kind of wondering what conclusions andreyf was trying to draw.

Edit: After a little thought, I think you may be blowing this up a little bit. He did delete the comment when boundless objected and it wasn't exactly a work of art or anything.


9 Hours later, after parting with this gem:

> "As a matter of fact, the reason I cross-posted is that I don't think the comment in question deserved the top spot, and would frankly be ashamed if such writing/logic were ever seriously attributed to me."

It's a new low for HN from what I've seen to date.


a new low for HN from what I've seen to date

Agreed. Except you're the one who keeps insisting on dragging out for me to explain myself over something boundlessdreamz and I settled in two comments 10 hours ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1049476


wondering what conclusions andreyf was trying to draw

I was wondering who would pick up first on the unyielding Google-love and the blatantly imagined Chinese-espionage speculation, HN or reddit. reddit won :( http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/aouv5/new_appro...


Huh? To cross-post a comment from news.YC to reddit? Why?


If it was your own comment that would be fine, if it is someone else's then I'm afraid that it is beyond me to explain to you why it is wrong if you do not understand that by yourself.


Right, if it was anything more than a comment on a message board, I agree, but just as borrowing a piece of paper or pencil during class without returning it is technically "theft", this is similarly justified.


You really don't get it do you?

How do I go about explaining this in a way that the coin will drop...

Borrowing a pencil or a piece of (blank) paper during class concerns the use of raw materials.

There is no personal investment in to that piece of paper or pencil, they are the equal of any other piece of paper or pencil, which is why you can 'return' a piece of paper, you simply take another one that looks sufficiently like the original and you return it.

To take someone else's words with attribution is one thing, even when done without permission.

To take someone else's words and to pass them off as your own is the essence of plagiarism. You basically pretended to have come up with those words on your own.

That's 'not done', not because you can't but simply because if everybody would be doing that we'd be having a cut and paste discussion instead of a real one.

If you use a link to underscore a point you make (or even a cut-and-paste quote with a source) that's perfectly fine, but to simply copy someones words and make them your own is well over the line.

'Just a comment on a message board' has nothing to do with it, that's saying that it is ok to steal dollar bills but not ok to steal 100's.


Accepting (and using) your confounding between copyright violation, plagiarism, and theft, most moral and legal system make exception to very minor infringements. The oldest I know of is the Babylonian Talmud, which grants exception to "injury less than a perutah in value" [1]. I challenge you to show any value in this "theft".

that's saying that it is ok to steal dollar bills but not ok to steal 100's

Precisely! That's what I meant by "borrow a pencil" without returning it: I'm saying it's OK to steal a piece of paper (or copy a comment), but not a dollar (or copy his blog post), and not a 100 (or copy a chapter from his book), especially if it serves another purpose (comparing replies to a popular comment in two communities).

1. http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_57.html


I give up.

Someone else want to give it a shot?


Here's a good example:

http://waxy.org/2009/04/all_things_digital_and_transparency_...

The short of it being that identity is paramount online. Stealing content can be a copyright issue, but stepping into someone else's voice and holding someone else's creative content as your own is simply evil. With proper, comprehensive attribution there's some flex to go around, but even then it's generally something done with consent and grace.

Cross-posting someone else's comment might just be borrowing their pencil for an argument, but since it's kind of an amazing pencil and now you're showing it off to your friends like it's your own, you should expect cold stares when you give it back.


Again, it depends on the value you attribute to a news.YC comment, and a reddit "identity". I agree with and understand the immorality of plagiarism, I'm just saying it only applies to work one puts more than a couple of minutes of effort into.


Someone else want to give it a shot?

Sure. Assuming we have the same innate moral sense as the authors of the Talmud, you value the damages of my copyright infringement as greater or equal than a perutah in value. I do not.

As a matter of fact, the reason I cross-posted is that I don't think the comment in question deserved the top spot, and would frankly be ashamed if such writing/logic were ever seriously attributed to me.


Right... do you know what 'adding insult to injury' means ?


Wow dude.. You are one of a kind.


Andreyf is active here too, but afaik not under that uid.

This is his:

http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=andreyf

So you may be right after all.


Someone mod poor Femur up, he was right all along.


Thanks, but I don't worry about karma. The discussion that followed because of my post was reward enough. :)


Good enough, but a -4 just for getting the timing wrong by a couple of minutes was hardly your mistake.

You had it backwards, but if you hadn't spotted that I highly doubt that this would have come out.

And I also highly doubt the whole 'social experiment' excuse, that's just way too glib for me.


I would like to see this be the top thread under the parent comment, however.


I am proud of the Google, but the skeptic in me says:

Google knows that it is not in a leading position in China and has been losing market share there. The fight there is probably not a fair one(but where is it a fair one?).

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Google-Drops-in-Market-Share-...

Thus they can make a strong, positive statement that the rest of the market will applaud, while not really losing that much(although 12% of China is still quite a bit).


In the long run, this is actually a very good and profitable business decision by Google. If the Chinese government is allowed to continue their human rights abuses, it will have major economic ramifications for everyone as China continues to grow in power.

"If you dance with the devil, you have to pay the piper."


... This is the first time, I have seen a LARGE company...

I don't want to romanticize times gone by, but I think at certain points in history there have been people who controlled large companies also knew that their sustainable existence depended on a healthy society; there might be short term costs to investing in such a society, but the long term benefits are enormous. In the neo-liberal era, this approach is no longer given any credence, but that is Bad Thing, indeed, and really just plain foolishness.

(Please somebody explain the downvote.)


I downvoted you for your unsupported claim that "In the neo-liberal era, this approach is no longer given any credence". I also downvoted you for complaining about a downvote, which probably gave you more sympathy upvotes than you deserved.


By the definition of neoliberal, non-market structures are considered bad. But you don't know that, or you wouldn't have downvoted me, at least not the first time. Why you might have downvoted me is that you think a shift away from more socialist structures toward more market structures is a good thing, or (less likely) that we are not in a neoliberal era. In either case, to downvote an opinion because you think it is wrong seems silly to me. Why not write a rebuttal, if you're so smart?

I think I have come to take more pride in my vote volatility than in having lots of karma; when I watch it go up and down on a post I think -- wow, people actually care about what I said. And anyone who actually worries about their karma points on HN.... well, sorry about that.

Oh -- I do appreciate the explanation.


    By the definition of neoliberal...
People don't run around saying "Oh I'm a neoliberal" - it's a word certain groups use to hit others over the head with. Sure enough.. that's what you move in to. It isn't constructive, expect downvotes.


I disagree that neoliberal is a word "to hit others over the head with", any more than "socialist" or "christian" or "pro-life" or "pro-choice". It is a word that describes an ideology; most neoliberals I know would be quite proud of it. I think that most readers of HN lean toward the libertarian side, and are thus sensitive to the critical connotations of neoliberal, but if the shoe fits...

Additionally, just a person might have an ideology even though he or she doesn't announce it explicitly. I reserve the right to describe people in ways they would not describe themselves.

So, I think the downvoting of me this time is flawed.


I do appreciate the explanation.

I have a better one: you sound snotty and smarter than me. Burn him!


I want to add some background knowledge:

- ever since the ending of the Olympics in 2008, Chinese government started a series of large scale "cleaning up" operations all in the name of removing porn from the Internet (while we all know what's the more obvious reason ...).

- Many report that as of now Xinjiang Autonomous Region has Internet access to only a few selected official websites after the riot in 2009.

- There are rumors about a potential whitelist-based filtering system coming online this year (2010). All websites (no matter where they are physically located or legally registered) must register and report to MII (http://www.miibeian.gov.cn/) if they offer Chinese content to visitors from mainland China, or they might be banned by the Great Firewall.

- Previously, individuals can register .cn domains. They tight up control over .cn registration and some registrars are actually starting to limit the IP address that .cn domains can use to only those within mainland China.


I'm not defending the China gov for these actions (and many not listed above). When criticizing these actions, it helps to understand the tremendous strains within China. China has changed more in the last 10 years than possibly any other country in the history of the world. These changes are accompanied by massive externalities. There are some serious powder kegs of anger and resentment, Xinjiang being a prime example. I'm not taking you to task for your criticism, but if you were a top government leader in China today, how would you handle these issues? Keep in mind that if your answer is to just make things free and open, there will most likely be a price to pay. You may say the short-term price of social disruption is worth the potential long-term benefits. However, there is no guarantee China would survive such extensive social disorder.

Controlling internet traffic is both a citizen control issue and an economic protection plan. I don't know what is in the reams of WTO deals China has made but its possible they never agreed to play free and open with companies outside China for access to their Internet user base. You may not agree with this protectionist approach, but it fits squarely within China's "middle-kingdom" mentality.

Again, don't take my words as a defense of any of China's actions. But seriously, what would you do if you were in charge? I certainly wouldn't take the job.


The size of China magnifies the significance of their changes, but there has been little real change over the last 10 years. Their economic growth pails in comparison to what South Korea or Japan went though over a similar time period. The government actively limits economic growth and has been using the limited economic growth to help quell political unease. China is a highly corrupt and protectionist society and the powerful have been using their influence to meddle in business for thousands of years. While there size may elevate them to supper power status in time, I suspect they are going to have limited impact over the next hundred years without significant political and economic reform.


huh? No real change over the last 10 years?

As a rule I try to shy away inflammatory criticism, but this was a very poorly researched post.

There has been TREMENDOUS change over the past 10 years! You have to remember that until Deng's reforms in the late 80s, China was a completely closed society that was just beginning to heal from decades of strife and instability (almost 100 years!), including the cultural revolution which literally turned society upside down and placed a freeze on societal progress.

Since the early 90s China has made leaps and bounds in regards to reform and progress. YES they are still MANY problems, but the changes have been very substantial. China will surpass Japan this year as the 2nd largest economy in the world. Outside of the US and Russia, it holds the third largest stockpile of nuclear arms. The accolades are many...

That said, its unfair to really compare China with South Korea/Japan, who've not only had a huge lead time, but also don't have 1.3 billion people to feed, provide jobs for, and yes control.

All of this growth and sudden change has caused problems, corruption and protectionist economic policies (not to mention the increasingly dangerous heights of nationalism the CCP is stimulating among the populace, especially the youth). To say however that Chinese society is corrupt and have been "meddling in business for thousands of years" is absurd and frankly a bit fox-news in rhetoric.

One of the things I love most about HN is that the community here is in general "smarter" than more general-interest social news communities. That said, I wish people would take a more balanced view on China. Yes there are problems and the CCP is no benevolent big brother but as the poster above me has pointed out the issues are not black and white. There are many many many nuances in uplifting a nation of 1.3 billion people into modernity. I'm not convinced that an open, free-market system is the best solution. Perhaps down the road, but not now.


Not to quibble too much, since this is a complex issue, but as it is 2010, "last 10 years" would mean since 2000, so stuff from the 80s and 90s isn't precisely on target.


Fair.

That said, my points still stands. I used the 90s for contrast purposes. The changes in China over the past 20 years are PROFOUND. Over the past 10 years they are only slightly diminished but no less amazing.

I've been traveling to China annually for pretty much the last 6-7 years and lived there for an extended period of time a few years ago. The changes have been dramatic in both urban and rural areas. In fact I found change to be even more visible in the rural areas. Literally over a year farm fields would be transformed to high-rises and cosmopolitan residential communities.

The changes in infrastructure/economic development has also fostered great changes/progress towards a more civil society, etc.

Even if we were just to compare 2000 vs 2010 the changes are great. To say that there have been no major progress in 10 years and to suggest that South Korean and Japanese development in that same period of time has been greater than China's is patently absurd. Like dum-dum circus absurd.


To be clear I am not suggesting that Japan had the same level of growth from 2000 vs 2010 rather when you compare growth at similar levels of development the growth seems less impressive. I used to think much more highly of China but after watching how much supervision a group of visiting academics had I became far less enchanted.

PS: Visiting China it's easy to overestimate the level of growth if you are anywhere near the coast, I would suggest you wonder around western china to get some idea of how far the country has to go.

Edit: Find China http://geology.com/articles/satellite-photo-earth-at-night.s... granted I think that's a compost from the mid 90's but you can still see the trend on where development takes place.


Comparing the rate of political change in China from 1988 - 1998 to the rate of change in 2000 - 2010 it's clearly slowed down. As to corruption I can only suggest you research the topic both from a historical perspective and a modern business one. Read up on how Google local competitor has benefited from close government ties and multiply that by every significant business in China. Look at the percentage of multi millionaires with close family connections to government and suggest corruption is not a major issue.

China has had just as long to grow economically as Japan and South Korea. Yet, only by ignoring the vast difference in population sizes are they in any way comparable from an economic standpoint. Suggesting that a non "free-market" system is a better approach when it's provided such poor returns is ignoring history.


The numbers I've seen show that economic growth since China joined WTO in October 2000 surpasses any other period you may choose. In my original comment, I mention "change" (social, political, and economic) in China over the past 10 years simply because I've lived in Shanghai since summer 2000 and personally witnessed the change.

I can't speak for South Korea or Japan because I've never lived there and have only read about those places.

Although I personally lean toward "free-market" policies, I recognize that a significant portion of the U.S. economy (my country) does not operate on free-market principles. Energy, Government, some aspects of Health Care, mostly operate under controlled, non-free-market conditions.


The rate of change will obviously be grater from 1988-1998 than from 2000-2010 because prior to 1988 China was a completely closed society (especially prior to 1978) and just beginning to wake up from the cultural revolution, a highly chaotic period where progress LITERALLY stopped.

That said, this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Prc1952-2005gdp.gif

appears to disproves your point. Not accounting for inflation, nominal GDP grew about 8,000 bln from 1990-2000, which is paralleled in only 5 years between 2000-2005.

As for corruption, I don't think you've done much to further your argument that "China has been a historical corrupt society for thousands of years". Benefiting from close ties to the government is a natural economic condition found in every country. Hello US Lobbying industry?

And the percentage of multi-millionaires with close family connections doesn't say much either, only that China has a growing class of oligarchs, again a condition found in many many many other countries.

That said, it wouldn't be fair for me to wholly dismiss your points. Yes corruption is widespread, but I don't see how that proves your point that China as a society has been utilizing corruption to cheat their business partners for thousands of years. That is an absurd point that is not at all grounded in history nor facts.

Finally I think you mis-understood my point in regards to S. Korea/Japan. They have had LONGER to grow economically in the sense that until the mid 1970s China was essentially a collapsed country, with really NO economy. Irregardless of time, both S. Korea and Japan grew their economies out of authoritarian governments. S. Korea was for most of the latter half of the 20th century a military state and Japanese politics was dominated by a single party. Both not exactly what I would call open democratic regimes.

No idea what you mean by "a non 'free-market' system is a better approach when it's provided such poor returns...", can you define "poor returns"? China has been one of the fastest growing economies for the past 30 years. How is that poor returns? In fact, its the very authoritarian regime you lambast as being economically inefficient that has been cited as the source of China's seemingly "magical" growth.

Lastly, you absolutely CANNOT ignore China's massive population when analyzing the country's current and future states. Having to support a nation of 1.3 billion people is an epically difficult task and as I state in a prior comment, ALL problems in China derive from its population problem.

Anyways the point of all of this is not to defend China. The hyperbole and level of mis-understanding among the HN community in regards to China is absurd. This is not a good/bad issue. China's problems are nuanced, just like all things in life. It helps no one by making blanket statements that are derived from quick google searches and superficial understanding of complex issues.


I am not suggesting that you compare China to other Japan today rather how quickly they become industrialized. In 1965, Japan's nominal GDP was estimated at just over $91 billion. Fifteen years later, the nominal GDP had soared to a record $1.065 trillion by 1980. (11x growth in 15 years.) By comparison China's growth from 1989 to 2004 was ~9x (from your chart). At the time there was a lot of talk about Japan taking over the world, which did not happen for various reasons, primarily because once you get to near parity with the rest of the world further economic development requires innovation.

As to poor returns I meant that China's growth has been has increased as they approached a free market, and there is little evidence to support the advantage (in terms of growth) of a non free market. Which was a response to I'm not convinced that an open, free-market system is the best solution. Perhaps down the road, but not now.

PS: I am not saying china's growth is slow, rather young people don't have a lot to compare it to. Industrialization and effective free markets result in massive economic growth. So I don't think the Chinese government is responsible for growth so much as letting it happen.

Edit: As to corruption it's something you have to see first hand. It has many forms but look at Google for a classic example. The most blatant example of which was they used DNS to randomly point to Google's competitor; now just think about what that means. Sadly this is closer to the norm than most people acknowledge.


Japan had a bit of help from abroad after world war II, and like Germany for a long time did not have the financial burden of an army.


Good comments lhuang. I am often surprised at the negative "drive-by" comments against China. China does have a lot of problems to solve. I'm truly amazed they've made it this far and we should spend a bit of time celebrating their advances if we expect them to take our criticism. I'm sure there are people in government in China that are just in it to pull money out of the system. But in my experience, they are the minority. A China government official must make net positive progress or get replaced.


Controlling will buy you some time before you can really fix problems. However I failed to see much possibility the current government will ever be able to fix those "stability" issues. The pressure and tension just accumulate until one day it breaks. Then you see either 1989 once again, or you see revolution. I'm expecting it to happen within the next two decades.


Who do you think will lead this revolution?

Students at the elite schools in China care about getting jobs with foreign multinationals, not democratic reform...


> the tremendous strains within China

Who created these strains and who should be responsible for this?


1.3 billion people. All strains in China derive from that parent strain.

Not sure you can really pin that blame on the CCP although certainly Mao's lets-all-have-babies ideas would account for some of it.


Every once in awhile their Don't be evil motto reminds us that it still exists.

Reading in between the lines, it seems that they must feel that the Chinese government was involved in the attacks on the user accounts. Otherwise, the first portion of the post re: cyber security has little to do with the latter portion re: dealing with China at all. This is a fairly clever approach to conveying such a heavy message without stating it.


Nobody does data mining better than good 'ole Google. If they went public with this post you can be sure there is more to it than what you're reading.


"in order to say 'don't be evil' you must already dwell in that space of evil" -Slavoj Zizek at Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x0eyNkNpL0#t=1h13m55s


I can't really spend the time to watch that video right now, nor am I in the right context. Could someone summarize it for me? It can't be that what he's saying is that you have to be evil for "don't be evil" to have any meaning, because that would be moronic. But I can't parse any other meaning from this short little quote.

Edit: no, that's not what he's saying, but I think I might not have the intellectual capacity to paraphrase what he did say well without thinking about it some more.


Honestly, you shouldn't waste too many brain cycles on trying to decode Zizek


I'll take your word for it then.


I thought that was weird. Nowhere in the post do they say that the attacks were done by the Chinese government. We're all just assuming that is the case.


It very much reads between the lines. That's about how much they can go with public accusation without actually having to avoid libel charges and turn up evidence in court. It is quite certain their lawyers worked a lot with the text.


China suing Google for libel-now that would be rich.


Could someone post the text of this blog entry here into Hacker News Comments (if doing so isn't a copyright violation)? I live in China, therefore can't read the blog post (though have deduced much of its content from reading these comments!)

Before the Olympics, the Firewall would periodically block blogspot, but it was easy to get around it using proxies. However, post-Olympics, in May 2009, all of blogspot was blocked (not just those dealing with Fln G*ng, etc), including through proxies, newsfeeds, everything. Every few weeks, new sites are blocked. It seems the Olympics was a minor P.R. obstacle to the unrestricted censorship they really wanted; once over, the censors have gone into free fall.

The blockages seems arbitrary. One can almost understand a line of logic whereby all blogspot blogs are blocked, e.g. "The users are anonymous, their details not verifiable by our government officials..." blah blah. But how can you explain blocking http://www.python.org/download/ and subpages, blocked here for the last 3 to 6 months? The other Python website pages are accessible, just not the download page. Where's the logic in that? Those of us living here for a while automatically assume some other competing scripting language rep paid off some friend working at the censor bureau. "Who watches the watchers?" as they say.

Once a certain site has been blocked, it never reverts. Some people here are starting to call the internet available within China a "Countrinet".


Would an email list that emails out a new proxy web address once one gets blocked to its subscribers work?

-- there is some open source code that can be setup to run as a proxy app

-- there's a main site that pings it to see when it goes down, or an email address that can be mailed if it goes down.

-- once blocked, a new email goes out to users with the next proxy server web address that has already been setup and ready to use: an IP, domain or sub domain url

-- so it's like dominoes falling and the current one standing is what people use, as new dominoes are setup in the background

Challenge:

1) finding a ready supply of IP addresses, domains, and URLs where new proxies can be setup

2) making sure the emails aren't blocked

3) plugin so it works transparently for the end user


It used to be in China you could get to blogspot easily through proxies. If a proxy server was blocked, you could then find another unblocked one easily enough. But since the Olympics, a new method of blocking blogspot seems to be in place. Even when the proxy is available, as soon as the blogspot content starts streaming, it's cut off. The post-Olympic firewall seems to be sensitive to the content when it's blogspot blogs.


How about blogspot content via feedburner?

The firewall's probably looking for blogspot characteristics in the html coming through (ie the themes) -- but grabbing the same blog posts through feedburner (and rss in general) could circumvent this filter. Although, in such feeds, you wouldn't want any blogspot.com links.


A new approach to China

1/12/2010 03:00:00 PM

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this U.S. government report (PDF), Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.

Posted by David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer


Thanks!


The Times' has a source with an interesting addition to the story: Google did not publicly link the Chinese government to the cyber attack, but people with knowledge of Google’s investigation said they had enough evidence to justify its actions.

A United States expert on cyber warfare said that 34 companies were targeted, most of them high-technology companies in Silicon Valley. The attacks came from Taiwanese Internet addresses, according to James Mulvenon, an expert on Chinese cyberwarfare capabilities.

Mr. Mulvenon said that the stolen documents were sent electronically to a server controlled by Rackspace, based in San Antonio.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/world/asia/13beijing.html


We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Wow.


Come on. Don't upvote to 36+ a comment that just copies part of the article with "wow" after it. I'm not saying it's wrong and should be downvoted, but still...


I got upvoted because I was the first comment. I extracted the important part of a long blog post.


They shouldn't have even opened an office in China. What the heck did they expect to happen?


In case you didn't know. Google is not a charity, but a business organization.

It would have been silly for them not to do business with China - when most western nations and companies does it. Some level of censorship does outweigh the benefits of having google.cn. But google being google, and perhaps the only company that has the balls to do this, will most likely pull out of china if they don't get their way.

I can't think of any other company doing this, the potential for business is incredible in china, which has more internet users than USA.

This is BIG.


Also, when you think about the concession they had to make, it wasn't all that big:

Exclude from Google results any sites that cannot be viewed from China.

That is arguably the right thing to do from a usability, if not from a political, perspective.


There is a lot of information about search results in the title, summary and cached versions alone. If the results are "sensitive" to the government, that content is highly likely to contradict the sanitised history that is being handed down.


True. I don't doubt this at all.

But.. imagine that the reason you couldn't reach these sites was not political (eg, pay wall). Wouldn't you want your search engine to give you ten links that work.


Of course in this case it is about events such as citizens being run down by tanks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_19...

"Currently, due to strong Chinese government censorship including Internet censorship, the news media are forbidden to report anything related to the protests. Websites related to the protest are blocked on the mainland.[94] A search for Tiananmen Square protest information on the Internet in Mainland China largely returns no results, apart from the government-mandated version of the events and the official view, which are mostly found on Websites of People's Daily and other heavily-controlled media.[95]"

If Google was hiding links to US websites that blocked international traffic, fair play. But we are talking about sites that are blocked by government mandate.


Baidu, the Chinese search engine, has a little over double the market share of Google. If Google leaves, Baidu wins.

Also, just because someone else has done something, doesn't mean you too should do it. The potential for business should be weighed against the ethical decision to do business with a totalitarian government. But I guess this is the West and we have no problem dealing with dictators and oppressors and their like anyway.


They expected to do business, of course. It is, after all, a 1.32bn audience base.

Quite glad they're opting to take the ethical route this time, though.


On top of a profitable business in China, Google now has some ability to leverage some change in China. At the least, other corporations and governments will reconsider their relationships or expectations of China. Google had no influence before they opened google.cn, and as netcan pointed out, it wouldn't have been very useful to show sites not viewable through the Great Firewall anyway.

Business and an opportunity they didn't have before. Be charitable, this looks like a better outcome than had they stayed out of China altogether.


“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”

Well, I wouldn't call Google's moves stupid, but this sure is a surprising outcome.


That is a perfect quote. Please tell me who it is attributed to. I tried to give you a point, but failed.


Gamal Abdel Nassar, second President of Egypt. Thanks for trying with the point; I'm new and I guess still provisional.


> a 1.32bn audience base

With 0.4bn actual base (total amount of Chinese Internet users), others were 'represented' by the Party.


0.4 bn = Population of the united states


Well,the decision could also have been made along with the fact that they don't have a large user base. I am guessing "Baidu" is still pretty popular there. I wonder if they would have done the same if they had a 60% penetration in the Chinese market.

EDIT:

Why am I being downmodded ? I thought we are supposed to have open discussions here. (I did find the actual google mkt share in the TC blog later, but I was presenting an alternative reason along with the fact that their site was attacked)


Even if they have 5% market pulling out of china is huge. They currently have ~17% market share in China. No profit-making company in their right mind would pull out of country with ~17% market share.



s/profit-making/profit-centered/


It's a public company's fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of it's stockholders, which in most cases is profit-centered (considering that the major holders of Google are investment funds and groups). It looks like after hours trading of GOOG is trending lower.


Additionally, they recruit heavily from China's top universities.


I imagine they expected to tap into some of the best computer science talent on the face of the earth.

Just like they expected to do when they opened offices in Europe, Canada, etc.


By this logic, why do business in a plethora of other questionable countries?

Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.


Major kudos to Google. This is an outstanding outcome.

We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today.

How sad that they had to specify this, or a few of their Chinese employees would risk their freedom, or worst, their lives.


What I read between the lines there was: "We have the feeling that this might have been made possible due to an inside job by one or more of our employees in China. However, we don't know who or to what extent and we'd rather not do our dirty laundry in public."

Call me cynical. :/


Dunno why you consider that cynical. It's just realistic, and it wouldn't even indicate bad faith on Google's part or anyone else's if that was the reason under the covers.


Rumor is that Google China staff were sent home early today http://twitter.com/joCNN/status/7702905501


They probably risk questioning, regardless. Google execs did what they could, a good thing.


Wow!

Things just went batshit crazy. Trying to tell financial people to calm down. Google wasn't making any money in China anyway. And there is no reason to think right now that this will affect anyone else.

I REALLY hope people can regain their bearing before tomorrow's trading session.

Thank you Google for announcing this after market close!

To have announced it during trading would have been horrid.

EDIT: BTW It is testimony to the power of social media that people didn't freak when it hit Google's blog, but when it hit the social media sites. Lesson learned there, by me anyway.


This might be a great time to buy GOOG - from the little I know about finance people, this has all of the heuristics which will make them overreact.


  Google wasn't making any money in China anyway.
Yeah, I was thinking as I read this, "You were going to have to cede the market to Baidu, anyway."


Heh, I was thinking of selling my Google stock, but I'm glad I kept it for financial and emotional reasons. I just wish they'd look at my job application again ;-)


Horrible, but also very exciting!


I just talked to a friend of mine in the computer industry, native Chinese, my age (early 20s). I asked him about the Google news and he said when it comes to economics he's quite the idiot, and such things don't really concern him much. It's kind of ironic, since I recall him mentioning that Google was thinking of pulling out of China months ago. He did mention however that other new restrictions on things like registering .cn domains had caused him great inconvenience (he had to migrate all of his stuff to a .com), so that evidences he's not all roses about everything Chinese gov't wise.

It appears that within China this is being spun as the surrender of a foreign company failing to understand the Chinese market, and outside China as some sort of stand on Humans Rights. Probably both are true, but I think it's interesting to see the perspectives as reported by both sides.


"Gossip from within google.cn is Shanghai office used as CN gov attack stage in US source code network." - wikileaks: http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/7689041346


Also:

"gossip inside google China is gov hackers found infiltrating google source code repository; gmail attacks an old issue." - @wikileaks http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/7688415363

"China has been quietly asking for the same access to google logfiles as US intelligence for 2-3 years now." - @wikileaks http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/7689072081

"Should be noted that Google keeps secret how many user's records are disclosed to US intelligence, others." - @wikileaks http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/7689142127

"correction: the time of the Chinese requests/demands are not exactly known and are possibly in the last 12 months." - @wikileaks http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/7689422772


I've been wondering why Google's response has been so ... ferocious. If the PRC government has been suborning Google's Chinese employees (easy enough for a government that ruthless and powerful) then Google can't really afford to maintain a presence in China ... and they need to let people know on the QT what's happening.

If this is true, it's very serious, worse than e.g. the moles France planted in US companies.


It says a lot when Google isn't even willing to store any source code in China. Hard to argue with that decision at this point, though.


> We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn

Kudos to Google!

Amazing.

You work for a great company, Googlers!


I know and I couldn't be prouder right now.


nobody seems to be commenting on the attack part of that post. what was the "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google"?

that doesn't sound like just a few end-user gmail accounts being compromised, but something that was much more serious that may have exposed more information than just what these chinese attackers were looking for.


Wikileaks says:

Gossip inside google China is gov hackers found infiltrating google source code repository; gmail attacks an old issue.

http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/7688415363

EDIT: I see "est" mentioned this rumor, too.

BTW, a CNN producer is tweeting that Google CN workers may have been sent home early. Conspiracy theorists would say that supports the idea of an attack from the inside. Or maybe Google just had mercy on its staff and knew they wouldn't get any work done today anyway.

http://twitter.com/joCNN/status/7702905501


Google may have even sent the employees home to help protect them. If they seem uninvolved in Google's decision to uncensor, then it's less likely that the employees will face punishment from the Government.


"an attack from the inside" Of course it was. China is an insider's society.


For some background information:

GFW research team tried heavily to crack down the SSL certificate for gmail (thus, they can censor the gmail content through GFW).



most chinese know nothing about the GFW! even now! most chinese know nothing about the true story of why google is going to leave! nobody could help chinese to build a better gov, and they just fool all of themselves. i wanna find a chance to get away from Beijing but...how?


为什么美国不来个反GFW项目 你禁止国内访问外网的某些网站, 那我也以其人之道还治其人之身 把关键网站也对中国封掉,比如科技IEEE,教育,医疗等著名网站,把中国真正变成一个局域网。那时候详细国内的网民该疯了


Translation:

"Why doesn't America create an anti-GFW project. You block people in China accessing websites outside of China, so I give you your own medicine, block China from accessing some key websites, such as technology IEEE, education, medicine, and other famous websites, then China would genuinely become a local area network. Then webizens within China would genuinely go mad"


The Chinese should free them by their own hands


Because that would be stooping to China's level.


I really need a software called "Anti-GFW".


The programmers who work for GFW ( China Greet Firewall using to Prohibit Chinese people access to sensitive political information) will give birth to children without anus


[dead]


I don't think there is anything I could do to make a difference. I guess I can give a few people a free US VPN. Email me if you want access.

Google could bring down the GFW by massively disseminating free VPN access to Chinese people. However, doing so could get Larry and/or Sergey assassinated.


The IPs would get blocked. If you had many IPs, chances are they would be from a small group of ranges and the entire ranges would get blocked.

For years the way I worked around the firewall from Shanghai was to run SOCKS proxy through an SSH tunnel to my U.S. server. This works because its not advertised as such and China does not want to block all SSH/SSL traffic.

China is not trying to block everyone. If you're well educated, tech-savvy, and have a credit card to rent a server outside China, you can get around the firewall. Its that simple. If you read Chinese, as most do in China, there are many avenues of (sometimes transient) data sources which carry just about everything you could imagine. The information is out there, you just have to work a little harder to find it. China, just like various interests that control U.S. media is going after the broad strokes. In China they use the GFW, in the U.S., advertisers simply tell the top 4 media companies to not talk about certain things or else their ad money will dry up. The results as to what the general populous know are similar in my opinion.


VPN is just temporary solution, I suspect there will soon be a whitelist crack down. I hope there's some sort of darknet that actively inject data into China's Internet using source address rewrite. However most of ISP in US or Europe ban srcaddr rewrite which makes this difficult.


I think if China actually goes for a whitelist crackdown, it is going to set off an unprecedented international effort to crack the Great Firewall. It would be an enormous mistake for the CCP; it cannot possibly end well.

To those that emailed me about the VPN, I should have it up within 24 hours.


[dead]


I don't understand. Are you talking about some revenge hacking? Because the only hacking I've heard about is the attempted hack of Google.


sometimes hackers hack for money


Maybe it takes a highly sophisticated attach just to get that much out of gmail.


> the theft of intellectual property from Google

To me, that implies more than just customer information (i.e. private data in a gmail account).


Total speculation, but source code and private keys would be especially useful if you wanted to crack gmail and track down dissidents or generally read people's email.


I think gmail's attach is pretty basic. Just like any other mail program.


10 bucks on 0day.


As I commented elsewhere in this post, gossip is that the attack was launched from _within_ the Chinese offices of Google, not just from the Internet.


oh! That's even more interesting. The security community spins lots of FUD talking about the "insider threat," but there's very little real data to back up the threat.

"Credible data describing the scope and impact of unwelcome insider actions are hard to come by..."

Shari Lawrence Pfleeger, Salvatore J. Stolfo, "Addressing the Insider Threat," IEEE Security and Privacy, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 10-13, Nov./Dec. 2009, doi:10.1109/MSP.2009.146 http://www.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/MSP.2009...


Rumors on twitter says it's Google Shanghai Office employees trying to crack Gmail from Google's internal network

All Chinese Googler were suspended from Google's internal source code and network access for now.


If these allegations are true, and really, I don't expect anyone to be better than Google at tracking who's doing what on the internet, then this is the right choice. It's refreshing to see a corporation back up its beliefs like this and the authorities in the mainland have seriously crossed the line.

But I feel compelled to point out that it's unfortunate that it's come to this. I don't agree at all with posters saying that Google was initially doing the wrong thing by being in business in China at all; as several other posters have already pointed out, Google was at least making sure the censorship was obvious, which, really, was bold already.

Moreover, the bigger point; how wrong is it for international corporations to do business in China? Yes, there are human rights abuses. I get annoyed when people seem to just enjoy using the PRC leadership as a moral punching bag without trying to understand the historical lead-up to its creation (and, really, the West helped create the conditions in China that led to its current authoritarianism to begin with). But, what is really going to be gained by corporations outright stonewalling the mainland and its business opportunities? If you really want to help people and be pragmatic, then I think you would have done as Google originally did. The potential economic opportunities created for the millions of very poor Chinese by having international business in China is not something to take lightly if you can manage to at least not worsen the position of human rights activists in China by censoring and not outright handing them over (something which I think Yahoo actually did). And, by working with the PRC, you can at least get yourself into a position where you can affect change without outright confrontation.

Again, I do agree that the hacking attempts change the game entirely and is the point at which all international corporations doing business in China need to reconsider things, but just stonewalling China for confrontation's sake is just trying to encourage another Cold War, and we don't want that.


Its a fair point, but there is something to be said for looking at what the PRC wants. In particular, they want/need western business. If google can show the Chinese government that their practices will prevent western business, then the confrontation can be useful.

Its not to say that a direct confrontation is the right move, but there is a balance point between direct accusation and giving the PRC a face saving way to make a small change.

The real question (in my mind) is: is google at the right balance point.


I love that CNN's app on the iPhone immediately sent me an alert to let me know when Brittany Murphy died whereas 3 hours after a real story like this broke I still haven't gotten any sort of notification. Uninstalling CNN's app right after I post this.


It pains me to admit this, but I think that there are considerably more people who care about Brittany Murphy dying than care about this.

I suggest that you, instead, just subscribe to some RSS feeds.


I'll be honest. I didn't know who Brittany Murphy was until she went all over the news networks. Still don't really know -- didn't ready any of the articles.

Meanwhile, I've been consuming news about Google.CN for the past four hours. Ought to go to bed, but this is so fascinating!


nytimes.com sent out an email alert as soon as the story broke.


Go Google, Go!

This is what the world needs more of. Mega Multination Corporations standing up to dictatorships, human rights violators and all around douche bag governments.


This is amazingly bold. Not because they are shutting down operations or even stopping the censoring - they could have done that in a hundred ways that would save face and leave the door open for them to come back in at any time - but because they have come right out and said it, cut the BS, they consider the human rights actions of the Chinese government unacceptable.

I do wonder how wise this is as a business decision - I would fully expect they will never make a cent in China again, possibly even other countries increasingly dependent on China might get pressure to be more 'hostile' to Google.

Congrats to them on such a brave stand!


People are bringing flowers to the Google building:

http://imgur.com/5xJmy.jpg

http://img.gd/Dbn/full


Others (on reddit) are interpreting this as flowers on Google's gravestone.

A CNN reporter from China tweeted this image and translated the text as "Real Man"

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/imag...


It means "Google: a real, [upstanding -- implied], man"

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