Business, Politics

Google may leave China in April

By Branko Brkic 19 March 2010

It appears the end game in China vs. Google war is near. China Business News is reporting Google will give up on the Middle Kingdom and wind down its operations there from 10 April, despite the lure of having a major corporate presence in the world’s most populous nation – and the resulting profits.

This decision follows months of back-and-forth between the Internet giant and China over cyberhacking aimed at Google accounts and China’s insistence Google restrict access to some websites for its users. Google has publicly condemned the situation in the past. Then, last week Chinese firms doing business with Google purportedly signed a letter insisting on compensation from Google if the company leaves China (though rumours are this letter was a fraud – and presumably part of the tactics to pressure Google to tug its forelock and get back in line).

Over the past months, the censorship issue, in particular, has become a lightning rod in US-China relations, exacerbating other tensions between the two nations on a variety of trade and diplomatic issues.

Beijing tightly controls online content inside the country via a vast system sometimes called the “Great Firewall of China”, removing pornography and violence, but also politically sensitive material. In accordance with Chinese censorship policy, Google has continued to filter its google.cn search results and access, but it had already said it would eventually stop such screening.

China Business News is now reporting that the company has made its (presumably final) decision. The paper is quoting an executive of a Chinese advertising agency that is a business partner with Google, saying, “We have learnt that Google will leave China on 10 April, but the information has not been confirmed by Google at present.” 

The CBN article also cited an anonymous employee of Google China that the announcement may come by Monday of the decision to dissolve the branch and exit China (as well as offer compensation to staff). Google China spokeswoman Marsha Wang, however, would not comment on the story directly, saying only there is  “no update”, even though the story has already been reported worldwide by the very Internet that is the lifeblood of Google.

By J. Brooks Spector

For more, read Fastcompany, the Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times

Photo: Reuters

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