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March 24, 2010

Tech 101: What you need to know about Google vs. China

Posted: 12:39 PM ET

Tech news is complicated enough. But throw in some international relations and a heavy dose of spying allegations, and you've got yourself a news story that plenty of people talk about, but few people really understand.

That's the Google vs. China story in a nutshell. But don't check out just yet. This blog is here to help, with answers to several important (and easy-to-digest) questions about the Google-China situation.

Let me know if there are further confusions you'd like to have cleared up. And, if you decide to whip some of these facts out at your next cocktail party, report back on how it goes.

When did Google go into China, and why?

On January 27, 2006, some eight years after Google first incorporated, the San Francisco, California-based search engine decided to launch, a Chinese version of its Web site. Google's global Web site - - had been available in China before that, but it was censored and at times shut down by the Chinese government. It didn't work very well.

China's communist leadership restricts Internet content and political speech, so Google had to agree to censor some of its Internet search results in order to do business in China.

Still, the company argued that its presence in China would help open up the system over time. And the company said its search engine would work better if Google, rather than China, did the filtering.

"Our decision was based on a judgment that will make a meaningful - though imperfect - contribution to the overall expansion of access to information in China," Elliot Schrage, Google's then-VP of communications, testified in 2006.

Are there financial reasons for Google to be in China, too?

Of course. China has more Web users than any other country in the world - nearly 400 million of them, according to the latest reports. So there is definitely money to be made in China. Google made $300 million in China last year alone, according to CNNMoney. And the Chinese Internet market is expected to grow considerably as the Asian country continues to industrialize.

What happened this week? Did Google pull out of China?

Not exactly. Google said it would stop filtering search results in China. It accomplished this with a logistical change: Search results from mainland China now are directed to, a Hong Kong site that isn't filtered, instead of, which Google stopped filtering on Monday.

Many people assume China will block Google's unfiltered site. But Google's move put that decision in the Chinese government's hands. The search engine posted a chart, which has been dubbed the "evil meter," where people can see which Google services are currently blocked in China.

As of Wednesday morning, the chart said Web searches remained active in China.

What changed to make Google stop going along with Chinese censorship laws?

Google says Chinese hackers tapped into the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and conducted a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure." China denies these claims, but the situation caused Google to promise to stop censoring its results in China unless some kind of new agreement could be arranged between Google and China.

Here's what the company said in a blog post this January:

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, 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, and potentially our offices in China.

Why would it be a big deal for Google not to be in China?

Some say it could sour U.S.-China relations, although a spokesman for China's foreign ministry says this will not be the case. Others say it could reduce access to information and Web services in China. But one caveat there: Google is not the dominant search engine in China. A site called Baidu is.

There are obvious implications for Google's financial future if it, indeed, does not have a strong foothold in the largest market of Internet searchers in the world. And some analysts says the move could cause China to withdraw further from the Internet and from the globalizing world.

Do regular people in China care about whether Google is there or not?

Academics and business types have complained that their work will become more difficult without Google's search site around. National Public Radio reports that Chinese citizens are referring to Monday, the day Google stopped censoring in China, as "G Day," an apparent reference to the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.

One professor told NPR that Google has "overestimated its importance" in China. "As a researcher and an English-speaking person, I use Google English a lot. But for most Chinese netizens, they don't care about Google Chinese version," Deng Jianguo, an associate professor at Fudan University, told the news organization.

Does Google censor Web content in other countries?

In a word: Yes. Google caters its search site to censorship and privacy laws of countries where it operates. CNNMoney has a good round-up of some of these rules. Among them: In Germany, France and Poland, it's illegal to publish material that denies the Holocaust. So Google filters search results that do so. And in Turkey, videos that the government says mock "Turkishness," are filtered by Google for its Web site.

That story also provides an important detail about why Google's censorship policies are important:

Google controls nearly two-thirds of the world's search results, making it the Internet gateway for most people. As a result of that clout, Google's censorship policies are closely watched.

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Filed under: China • Google

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Jesus Christ   March 25th, 2010 11:08 am ET

Bow to me...

didnt catch the ride   March 25th, 2010 1:48 pm ET

Just look at's stock price now. It doubled since google made the announcement of it is leaving China. I like, but I question why they have to leave Chinese market? I think google's management should give all the investors a really, really good explanation.

Physicist in Cali   March 25th, 2010 1:54 pm ET

To didn't catch a ride: screw the investors, "Do no evil." Google's company motto!

Andrew Morgan   March 25th, 2010 2:18 pm ET

Wow where to begin? First off I'm a cacasian american born and raised here so before anyone starts curtisizing my spelling and grammer...plenty of americans butcher our own langauge you cannot blame that on asians! 2. to the people out there saying oh no one in china would even care if they couldn't use google. Google is used +30% of the time in china that's arquably one third. that means get three people in a room and one of them uses google. Now take the entire population of china and figure out how many people there use google on a regular basis. 3. to the idiots acting like 300 million a year is pocket change for google your crazy. that's in a single year, do you have any idea how many people could be employed off that money? With the worlds economy in the state it's in that sort of thing is important...4. How many times in the past five years has chinesse spies been caught in american corperations stealing information? When they steal that information it not only weakens the US government it also weakens it's econmy. 5. I 100% beleave that the average Chinesse person living in China hasn't got a clue about what's going on in the rest of the world, but I also beleave that it's because most of them just don't want to. Like the old saying goes "ignorance is bliss" 6. I am one of those people that beleave the internet should not be filtered at all in any country. the internet is source of communication, knowlege, and free speach some of the very princapals that democracy is built on how can any of us be free if we're being filtered.

So in closing I think Google should stay in China Stick to it's guns and fight it out. I think US government should get involved on the basis that chinia has been commiting or at least is being accused of commiting esponage. Lastly I think the whole WORLD should no longer censoured.

Oh and one last thing I thought would be funny to add. In the movie Jason X they talk about how brutle the microsoft wars were. They were picking up other peoples limbs and beating the death out of each other with them....What if this was the start of the Google Wars...G-Day is coming, you will no longer be able to google image search loli pron anymore....

Prepare for WWG

CNN's evil   March 25th, 2010 2:38 pm ET

"Don't be evil" should be 21th century business standard, not only Google's.
CCP is an evil, they have left so many bad records during the pass 60 years. Go to Taiwan and ask Taiwanese who has the first hand information of the evil party.

chi zhang   March 25th, 2010 2:38 pm ET

Many people from China support Google. However, their words on the BBSs were deleted by the Chinese cyber-police.

Ilan Ben Menachem   March 25th, 2010 2:45 pm ET

Until Chinese hackers crossed the line, and showed that Emperor Obama
has no climate clothes – All were happily hacking and profiling.

Wilson   March 25th, 2010 2:56 pm ET

Quoting Jim:

"2) Is CCP an absolute dictator? No. It has plurality inside. Don't forget it manages HK and Macao and invests in the U.S. Likewise, are Democrats and Republicans two different political parties? No, they are the same, with minor differences. Don't be fooled by name."

And what can you say about Chinese government's invasion of Tibet which is against the will of the Tibetans including the forced annexation of that land? A land grabbing on a larger-scale..I dont think its dictatorship actually it's worse than that.

China may have modernized Tibet but at what costs? To usurp the cultural heritage of the Tibetans to be faded away by the swarming influx of Chinese emmigrants. Tibetans can live without your modernization, they will not die without it.

Wilson   March 25th, 2010 3:05 pm ET

Quoting timely:

"China is going to be the strongest nation in the world. U.S. is nothing but a stupid pig."

Oh I dont think so. China has one of the lowest per capita income in the world. Only the government and the corporations gets fatter and fatter while the common people who labor do not.

And besides, China's government is one of the most plagued with corruption and this is China's greatest weakness which will make it collapse on it's own weight. So stop dreaming of something grand. You're not living in a wonderland. Perhaps your Chinese government told you that you did. You better wake up!

Khrys   March 25th, 2010 3:09 pm ET

Quoting Wilson:

"Oh I dont think so. China has one of the lowest per capita income in the world. Only the government and the corporations gets fatter and fatter while the common people who labor do not."

This sounds more like capitalism (as in the United States) than communism to me.

Ilan Ben Menachem   March 25th, 2010 3:30 pm ET

Google is nonthing in china, it never has been No1 in china.

Khrys   March 25th, 2010 3:55 pm ET

Just got moderated by CNN – I just had a few questions/responses for Physicist in Cali – no curse words, no pro or con for either Google or China. Just a few observation regarding United States' actions in Afghanistan and about American history regarding the civil war. But CNN seem to think it has to sensor it.

Khrys   March 25th, 2010 3:59 pm ET

The second try was moderated again by CNN. That means CNN is sensoring seom key words or phrases of certain topics/ideas since I said in an earlier post what is being moderated does not contain any offensive language.

CCP is evil   March 25th, 2010 5:34 pm ET

I watch the senator hearing about Google yesterday. what's a joke!
The closing statement from the senator really make me sick.

Let's have a war agaist China, as Republic did for Iraq.

mr G   March 25th, 2010 6:59 pm ET

google has no right to impose american way of live to the Chines People. It's better for them to shut down all their business in China once and for all.

Physicist in Cali   March 25th, 2010 7:15 pm ET

The national security argument is bonk as far as I'm concern. You can bankrupt your country both monetarily and in this case socially under thre creed of national security, George Jr. has done that in the Us. And anyone who justifies enslavement either physical or mental by saying the enslaved are not ready for freedom is just trying to hold onto power. If you didn't want to deal with the transition you should of never locked down on your people in the first place.

I realize that broad spectrum censorship under the guise of national/social security is part of Chinese culture and it is going to take time for it to change, but don't expect me to accept or respect it during that time.

chigong   March 25th, 2010 7:42 pm ET

It is interesting to see that whenever there is a chance to berate the Chinese government, a lot of Americans seem never hesitate to jump in the berate them, be the matter they have been told true or false, prooved or not. In the meanwhile, in their own backyard, the same bad thing is quietly. There are reports saying the American government paid a hack $75K/y for years to hack (hack who, not clear). But barely a few, less than 10 comments there under the CNN new item, seem to care about it. But just think about it. What will happen if that guy's employer was the Chinese government! And there are also those CEOs of the big bankrupt bound banks taking huge bonuses and going for luxerious vacations immediately after getting the subsidy from the US government, celebrating their success in getting your tax money to save the bank and their jobs, I guess? But in no time, this new got burried and forgotten completely.
Isn't that your own privacy and human rights got violated when your government hacks. Maybe you think that was the only hacker hired by their government and you are not hacked. Isn't those huge bonuses your own hard earned tax money and going to be your own debts? And where are the money in the huge American debt going, Iraqi? But then think about it, who is receiving those money? Don't you realized while you are so busy pointing fingers at the "dark" land (not so dark if you got closer, really), your tax money is endlessly flowing into some big bosses pockets? Don't you even realized while you stand so proudly and firmly on the moral high ground, that same high ground is just colapsing?
Americans are really funny people. It makes me feel like they really care about Chinese more than themselves. Do they?

CCP is evil   March 25th, 2010 8:11 pm ET

" It makes me feel like they really care about Chinese more than themselves. Do they?"
Don't forget there are thousands Chinese immigrated to here. We have the chance to bring up our American-born kids here and compare the two different systems.
If native Chinese are so week to liberate itself, we, oversea Chinese- American will.

CCP is evil   March 25th, 2010 8:30 pm ET

"there are also those CEOs of the big bankrupt bound banks taking huge bonuses and going for luxerious vacations immediately after getting the subsidy from the US government, celebrating their success in getting your tax money to save the bank and their jobs, I guess?"

The letter from those 20 google partners in china has demonstrated to me that they are the same group of the corrupted ccp. Those "two hand" trick is out of date, my friend.... We, small percentage of American, know how evil you are. You are 100 times more evil than those bankers. You kill the house holders and stole their lands.
That's why i said repectedly, CCP is evil. evil.evil....

Santiago Cueto   March 25th, 2010 9:03 pm ET

Google and GoDaddy's defiance of China's censorship mandate illustrates the power of corporate social responsibility initiatives to influence and reshape the repressive policies of authoritarian regimes. Secretary Clintons recent remarks about the information curtain dividing the world, reminded me of the apartheid era where much greater injustice and unspeakable acts against humanity were challenged and ultimately overcome through the use of corporate codes of conduct.

Given the success of codes of conduct in ending apartheid, we should look at applying the same principles to lift the information curtain China and in other repressive countries.

This was the subject of an article on the International Business Law Advisor-The Great Firewall of China: How Lessons from the Apartheid Era Can Lift the Information Curtain published on January 22, 2010

CCP is evil   March 25th, 2010 9:17 pm ET

"My only point is, while your own back yard is on fire, you are basically not in a position to rush to put off the fire on the house next door, letting along that house is on the otherside of the Ocean"

I often tell my freinds that they are lucky because they have 2nd house at London, Paris..., passed by their ancestors. My ancestor's house plus land are stolen by CCP. and, most of all, Their lives are killed.

That's why human right is so important for us.
let's me repeated : CCP is evil, evil, evil....

Blogger   March 25th, 2010 9:46 pm ET

So much for free speech. you cannot even post on CNN without the moderators censoring everything out. They will only post opinions that match their views. CNN is not that far away from communism themselves.

Blogger   March 25th, 2010 9:46 pm ET

GO BACK HOME GOOGLE! You are not wanted in China! If you can't follow China laws then get out! You represent the arrogant American mentality that you can just go wherever you want and do whatever you want. You have no respect for others. Get out!!!

Akumaface   March 26th, 2010 2:24 am ET

To Blogger:

How much did the PRC pay you for these stupid remarks. I'm really ashamed for the things you guys had written here. I am also Chinese who lives in HK and you are saying Google not following Chinese Law! Literally, if you read the Chinese Law, they seems to be more democratic than the US or most Democratic countries but they just pick an choose and is for the use of the government official anyway they wanted it. Not for the protection of their citizen. These laws are simply rules to make illegal things legal for the conveniences of the Chinese Official. How many people will go to jail in a country just because they were trying to help find out the number of casualties in an earthquake!!
How many people will be sentenced to jail just because they write an essay stating his own opinion on what the government needs to do. How many people had died just trying to go to Beijing to look for justice simply because they were exploited and disregarded by their own reginal and provincial government . How many official would say things like "We should introduce a law to stop all these people who try to go to Beijing and complain to the Central Government by introducing more severe penalties to stop all these visit from the outside!! Should I go on more....If they are not evil, i don't know what is. If China is so good and powerful and while country like US, UK or other democratic countries are so evil, then why most of the Children of the Chinese officials have foreign passport and all educated overseas!! Come on, give me a break and please don't try to hide from all the lies. Saying the lie one thousand times doesn't make it true (but in China, it can). US or other western country or not, they are not perfect and no one is but how can you defend a country that doesn't respect human rights. I understand a lot of people have similar view as I am and please don't say you are representing majority of the Chinese population because you are not. So, stop ignoring the fact and get real for a change.

ankitjivrani   April 6th, 2010 9:00 am ET

as per my knowledge may be google entered in china market in 2005.if i am wrong then correct me.

smmarkmoore   June 25th, 2010 2:52 am ET

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Wikileaks on China and Google – NYT | Abalinx   December 5th, 2010 4:24 am ET

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Floppy Radio Vol.145! – 中华人民共和国 « Floppy Radio!   December 6th, 2010 9:10 pm ET

[...] Más del pleito Google-China [...]

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OMG, do you see whats going on in Syria? In spite of a brutal government crackdown, the demonstrations continue

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