|Type||Privately held company|
|Industry||Internet, Computer software|
|Alexa rank||380 (April 2014[update])|
Google China is a subsidiary of Google. Google China ranks as the number 3 search engine in China, after Baidu and Soso.com. In 2010, searching via all Google search sites, including Google Mobile, were moved from Mainland China to Hong Kong.
As of November 2013, its search share has declined to 1.7% from its August 2012 level of 12%.
2005 - 2009
Google China was founded in 2005 and was originally headed by Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft executive and the founder in 1998 of Microsoft Research Asia. Microsoft sued Google and Kai-Fu Lee for the move, but reached a confidential settlement. Google's Beijing based office was initially located at NCI Tower.
In 2005, a Chinese-language interface was developed for the google.com website. In Jan 2006, Google launched its China-based google.cn search page with results subject to censorship by the Chinese government.
The Beijing office was moved to Tsinghua Science Park in early 2006. The newest office has been in use since September 2006. It is a 10-floor building located in Tsinghua Science Park, near the east gate of Tsinghua University.
In March 2009, China blocked access to Google's YouTube site due to footage showing Chinese security forces beating Tibetans; access to other Google online services is denied to users on an ad hoc basis.
On September 4, 2009, after four years leading Google China, Kai-Fu Lee announced his surprise departure to start a venture fund amid debate about the Chinese government's censorship policies and Google's decreasing share to rival Baidu and Soso.com.
Ending of self-censorship
In Jan 2010, Google announced that in response to a Chinese-originated hacking attack on them and other US tech companies, they were no longer willing to censor searches in China and would pull out of the country completely if necessary.
On March 23, 2010 at 3am Hong Kong Time (UTC+8), Google was under China's tight control and censorship. In response, Google started to redirect all search queries from Google.cn to Google.com.hk. (Google Hong Kong), thereby bypassing Chinese regulators and allowing uncensored Simplified Chinese search results. As a special entity recognized by international treaty, Hong Kong is vested with independent judicial power and not subject to most Chinese laws, including those requiring the restriction of free flow of information and censorship of internet materials.
David Drummond, senior vice president of Google, stated in the official Google blog that the circumstances surrounding censorship of the Internet in Mainland China led Google to make such a decision. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region in China with a higher level of freedom of speech and expression, and google.com.hk does not censor search results, making it more effective for networking and sharing information with Internet users in mainland China. Google's internet mail service, Gmail, is available to mainland China users. Google has maintained that it would continue with the research and development offices in China along with the sales offices for other Google products such as Android smartphone software.
On March 30, 2010, searching via all Google search sites (not only google.cn but all language versions, e.g. google.co.jp. google.com.au, etc.), including Google Mobile, was banned in Mainland China. Any attempt to search using Google resulted in a DNS error. Initial reports suggested that the error was caused by a banned string (RFA, as in "Radio Free America") being automatically added to Google search queries upstream of user queries, with prominent China journalists disagreeing over whether the blockage was an intentional and high-level attempt to censor search results. Other Google services such as Google Mail and Google Maps appeared to be unaffected. Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley and founder of the China Digital Times, noted that the ban in mainland China could eventually block all access to Google sites and applications if the Chinese Government wanted. The ban was lifted the day after.
On June 30, 2010, Google ended the automatic redirect of Google China to Google Hong Kong, and instead placed a link to Google Hong Kong to avoid getting their Internet Content Provider (ICP) license revoked.
The very fact that Google ended some of its services in China, and the reasons for it, were censored in China.
In 2013, Google stopped displaying warning messages that had shown up for Mainland Chinese users who were attempting to search for politically sensitive phrases.
Google China serves a market of mainland Chinese Internet users that was estimated in July 2009 to number 338 million. This estimate is up from 45.8 million in June 2002, according to a survey report from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released on June 30, 2002. A CNNIC report published a year and a half earlier, on January 17, 2001, estimated that the mainland Chinese Internet user base numbered 22.5 million people; this was considerably higher than the number published by Iamasia, a private Internet ratings company. The first CNNIC report, published on October 10, 1997, estimated the number of Chinese internet users at fewer than 650 thousand people.
The competitors of Google China include Baidu.com and Soso.com, often called the "Google of China" because of its resemblance and similarity to Google. In August 2008, Google China launched a legal music download service, Google Music, to rival Baidu's potentially illicit offering.
Before Google China's establishment, Google.com itself was accessible, even though much of its content was not accessible because of censorship. According to official statistics, google.com was accessible 90% of the time, and a number of services were not available at all.
Since announcing its intent to comply with Internet censorship laws in China, Google China had been the focus of controversy over what critics view as capitulation to the "Golden Shield Project". Because of its self-imposed censorship, whenever people searched for prohibited Chinese keywords on a blocked list maintained by the PRC government, google.cn displayed the following at the bottom of the page (translated): In accordance with local laws, regulations and policies, part of the search result is not shown. Some searches, such as (as of June 2009) "Tank Man" were blocked entirely, with only the message "Search results may not comply with the relevant laws, regulations and policy, and can not be displayed" appearing.
Google argued that it could play a role more useful to the cause of free speech by participating in China's IT industry than by refusing to comply and being denied admission to the mainland Chinese market. "While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission," a statement said.
A PBS analysis reported clear differences between results returned for controversial keywords by the censored and uncensored search engines. Google set up computer systems inside China that try to access Web sites outside the country. If a site is inaccessible (e.g., because of the Golden Shield Project), then it was added to Google China's blacklist.
On April 9, 2007, Google China spokesman Cui Jin admitted that the pinyin Google Input Method Editor (IME) "was built leveraging some non-Google database resources". This was in response to a request on April 6 from the Chinese search engine company Sohu that Google stop distributing its pinyin IME software because it allegedly copied portions from Sohu's own software.
In early 2008, Guo Quan, a university professor who had been dismissed after having founded a democratic opposition party, announced plans to sue Yahoo! and Google in the United States for having blocked his name from search results in mainland China.
On January 12, 2010, Google announced that it was "no longer willing to continue censoring" results on Google.cn, citing a breach of Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists including thousands of activists involved with the Human Rights Defender, Falun Gong and hundreds of overseas activists in fields such as encryption, intellectual property and democracy. The company learned that the hackers had breached two Gmail accounts but were only able to access 'from' and 'to' information and subject headers of emails in these accounts. The company's investigation into the attack showed that at least 34 other companies had been similarly targeted. Among the companies that were attacked were Adobe Systems, Symantec, Yahoo, Northrop Grumman and Dow Chemical. Experts claim the aim of the attacks was to gain information on weapon systems, political dissidents, and valuable source code that powers software applications. Additionally, dozens of Gmail accounts in China, Europe, and the United States had been regularly accessed by third parties, by way of phishing or malware on the users' computers rather than a security breach at Google. Although Google did not explicitly accuse the Chinese government of the breach, it said it was no longer willing to censor results on google.cn, and that it will discuss over the next few weeks "the basis on which we could run 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." Google.cn transiently turned off its search result filtering. However, the filtering was later re-enabled without any acknowledgment or explanation; search queries in Chinese on the keywords Tiananmen or June 4, 1989 returned censored results with the standard censorship footnote.
On January 13, 2010, the news agency AHN reported that the U.S. Congress plans to investigate Google's allegations that the Chinese government used the company's service to spy on human rights activists. In a major speech by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, analogies were drawn between the Berlin Wall and the free and unfree Internet. Chinese articles came back saying that the U.S. uses the internet as a means to create worldwide hegemony based on western values. The issue of Google's changed policy toward China has been cited as a potentially major development in world affairs, marking a split between authoritarian capitalism and the Western model of free capitalism and Internet access.
The Chinese government has since made numerous standard and general statements on the matter, but has taken no real actions. It also criticized Google for failing to provide any evidence of its accusation. Accusations were made by Baidu, a competing Chinese search engine, that Google was pulling out for financial rather than humanitarian reasons. Baidu is the market leader in China with about 60% of the market share compared to Google's 31%, Yahoo placing third with less than 10%. People's Daily published a scathing op-ed on Google which criticized western leaders for politicizing the way in which China controls citizens' access to the Internet, saying "implementing monitoring according to a country's national context is what any government has to do," and that China's need to censor the internet is greater than that of developed countries, "The Chinese society has generally less information bearing capacity than developed countries such as the U.S. ..."
According to Joseph Cheng, a professor of political science from City University of Hong Kong, the ruling Chinese Communist Party was deploying Chinese nationalism to stifle debate about censorship. By criticizing cultural export (in this case, the localization of Google in China), it provides defense to justify the Chinese authorities' censorship control.
The Chinese authorities are accused of steering state-run media to bundle Google together with other recent disputes with United States that have stirred nationalist rancour in China. On the website of the Global Times (www.huanqiu.com) such examples are found, one user wrote "Get the hell out" while another one wrote "Ha ha, I'm going to buy firecrackers to celebrate!".
Isaac Mao, a prominent Chinese internet expert, speculated that 90% of Internet users in China do not care whether Google leaves or not. Among Chinese users who strongly support Google remaining in China without censorship (or leaving China to keep its neutrality and independence), many are accustomed to using circumvention technology to access blocked websites.
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