Tangling with a Tyrant
Google's ugly relationship with the Chinese government.
4:31 PM, Jan 13, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Google has learned the hard way about the difficulty of dealing with a repressive regime. After years of bowing to China’s demand for censure, Google systems have reportedly been hacked (or compromised) by the Chinese government. The reason: The Chinese government hoped to uncover emails from human rights activists.
The attack was so severe that the U.S.-based company is contemplating leaving the Chinese market altogether. This would be no small move. According to CNET, Google will be leaving what might become the most lucrative market in the business. China’s population is 1.38 billion; it currently has 338 million active Internet users (roughly 25 percent of the population). Accordingly, 75 percent of the market remains unconnected to the Internet, so the potential for growth is huge.
Unfortunately, if Google now leaves China, it won’t be in solidarity with human rights activists. It would be strictly a business move--the very reason that ended up getting Google into this mess.
Google has for years censored the searches it produces within China, as a special gesture to the communist regime. The Washington Post explains:
Google’s response to the attack from the Chinese autocrats? Cease censorship of its Internet searches, in a move clearly meant to irk the Chinese.
Hillary Clinton, through the State Department’s website, seems rightfully concerned:
Google has locked itself into an unenviable predicament, which could have been altogether prevented had the Internet conglomerate not initially acquiesced to the tyranny's demands. But it’s too late now. We’ll have to wait until next week, but let’s hope the State Department has learned from Google’s mistake.