China Censors Google Foreign Internet Searches

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on June 21, 2009

China is clamping down on the internet once again, this time by forbidding Google (GOOG) from linking to certain foreign websites with pornographic content and other material deemed harmful to children. The move to block Chinese users of Google’s Chinese language search function from overseas websites comes less than two weeks after Beijing announced that all personal computers sold in China must have pre-installed firewall software blocking pornographic and violent content.

After an uproar from people on the net over “Green Dam-Youth Escort” firewall software, Beijing backpedalled somewhat on that PC censorship move, but this time around, there’s no telling whether the censorship of foreign internet sites will stick. But if the new requirement lasts, it will be far more draconian than previous attempts to erect internet firewalls within China. For example terms Google searches for terms like Tiananmen Square, Tibet, Taiwan and Falungong routinely turn up no results, a form of self censorship that Google agreed to enforce in return for access to China’s market of about 300 million internet surfers.

The move will undoubtedly be met with cheers from the folks over at Baidu (BIDU), the leading search engine in China accounting for about 60% of all searches. According to the Financial Times, sites blocked by Google were still accessible by Baidu.

Whenever the Chinese government launches a new campaign to keep out undesirable foreign influences, I always wonder what the real backstory is. Surely Beijing realizes they can’t put the internet genie back in the bottle, so is this mere posturing or do China’s leaders really believe they can ring fence the country from pornography, or any other content, for that matter? Or is this just another form of protectionism [the “Buy China” policy is a more overt example of this], an attempt to prevent Google from getting too big? Or is it a desperate move by some faction of the Chinese communist party trying to bolster its position by taking an uber-protectionist/censorship stance. Nothing like picking on the foreign influence when you want to divert attention from troubles in your own backyard. For a look at how Chinese bloggers are reacting to this latest Big Brother move, there is a good summary on the EastSouthWestNorth blog. Then, there’s also the whole question of Google’s complicity in this matter. But that’s a subject for another blog.

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Reader Comments

saiy.lou

June 22, 2009 06:32 AM

How foolish Frederik Balfour is!

juwang

June 22, 2009 02:21 PM

All the governments need to do something about this. Otherwise children will be surrounded by the unhealthy contents on the internet soon.

Laoji

June 22, 2009 03:37 PM

Yes, Saiy.lou. Frederik Balfour is indeed very foolish. I wish I could read an article from this Frederik Balfour about the Craigslist controversy. Of course from conspiracy point of view, that's what he is good at.

truthwillout

June 22, 2009 04:35 PM

if you want to know how the Chinese Communist Party think watch The nine Commentaries in the Communist Party, its a real eye opener!! http://ninecommentaries.com/

sherman xia

June 23, 2009 05:56 AM

i believe that's what should be done. good job, china.

huyu

June 23, 2009 10:54 PM

Please do not boast too much the level of China's development; it is not desired nor prudent. Most of us Chinese think otherwise; I am Chinese and an under-deserved Anglophile as well. To us Chinese, India is already the world's No.1 Superpower, transending the best traditions of the British Empire every day. No dispute here, and much admired. In PPP terms, India is already the world's No.1 economy, not even the US comes close. India has a super high-tech economy with InfoSys, Wipro, Nano, Slumdog, and much more that the average Chinese never even heard about, in whose unfit minds, they only know about BYD, Hauwei, ZTE, and Lenovo; never mind, how limited horizons. In the democratic guidance of Gandhi, Nehru, Indira, Rajeev, and Singh super human politicians,India shines while the world declines. India has a huge population dividend, and as time advances and the multiplier labours forth the advantage will become much more pronounced, just imagine millions more Singhs all equalled by only the Oxford Sheldonian debate chamber forged speakers equipped with superguns of saliva of immense range. With her close to 1.1 Billion Software Engineers, they are making this profession obselete; literacy is not even worthy of men's will as these boys and gals can all express themselves in the languages of their laptops. In the next 100 years, India with her super effective democracy will prevail mightily; as we Chinese just pray that India will also have mercy to leave a bit of room for us to earn a modest living in our corner of the planet. India just needs to sleep walk through the next 30 years, or better yet with their superior intellectual powers they can make an galactical contribution to human scientific endeavours like whether the black cats are superior to white cats, or white ones to black ones, or what the hell, maybe even both, whereas us poor Chinese will have to continue to slave under the Sun, rain, and snow just to keep us fed and our kids in school. With the current economic crisis, my salary here in Beijing is shrinking by 8% each year, together with the overall economy; oh maybe I am confused with the sign of this figure as you see I am not that educated with numbers. In 30 years, I suspect my salary would march on to zero, with how many ... I really do not know now, but then I would also be dead and need not to care. Oh, by the way whatever you hear from our government and the foreign press, if it is good news, just ignore it, it is not quite right, shall we just say. Cheers to India! Cheers to India!

huyu

June 23, 2009 11:41 PM

Please do not boast too much the level of China's development; it is not desired nor prudent. Most of us Chinese think otherwise; I am Chinese and an under-deserved Anglophile as well. To us Chinese, India is already the world's No.1 Superpower, transending the best traditions of the British Empire every day. No dispute here, and much admired. In PPP terms, India is already the world's No.1 economy, not even the US comes close. India has a super high-tech economy with InfoSys, Wipro, Nano, Slumdog, and much more that the average Chinese never even heard about, in whose unfit minds, they only know about BYD, Hauwei, ZTE, and Lenovo; never mind, how limited horizons. In the democratic guidance of Gandhi, Nehru, Indira, Rajeev, and Singh super human politicians,India shines while the world declines. India has a huge population dividend, and as time advances and the multiplier labours forth the advantage will become much more pronounced, just imagine millions more Singhs all equalled by only the Oxford Sheldonian debate chamber forged speakers equipped with superguns of saliva of immense range. With her close to 1.1 Billion Software Engineers, they are making this profession obselete; literacy is not even worthy of men's will as these boys and gals can all express themselves in the languages of their laptops. In the next 100 years, India with her super effective democracy will prevail mightily; as we Chinese just pray that India will also have mercy to leave a bit of room for us to earn a modest living in our corner of the planet. India just needs to sleep walk through the next 30 years, or better yet with their superior intellectual powers they can make an galactical contribution to human scientific endeavours like whether the black cats are superior to white cats, or white ones to black ones, or what the hell, maybe even both, whereas us poor Chinese will have to continue to slave under the Sun, rain, and snow just to keep us fed and our kids in school. With the current economic crisis, my salary here in Beijing is shrinking by 8% each year, together with the overall economy; oh maybe I am confused with the sign of this figure as you see I am not that educated with numbers. In 30 years, I suspect my salary would march on to zero, with how many ... I really do not know now, but then I would also be dead and need not to care. Oh, by the way whatever you hear from our government and the foreign press, if it is good news, just ignore it, it is not quite right, shall we just say. Cheers to India! Cheers to India!

To Laoji and saiy.lou

June 24, 2009 03:46 AM

You are a couple of fools

buttercookies2002

June 24, 2009 10:53 AM

@ huyu ha ha !

ellena

June 24, 2009 11:05 AM

It's a bit too manipulative to tell people what to do. i don't give a sh*t about it. i know what's the best for me, and also, it's just pointless to install the firewall software, even though it blocks a certain of information such as pornography, we still can find other ways to access it.. it was a hilariously wrong move.

If the Chinese government's intention was really just to block the information about Tiananmen massacre and Tibet crackdown etc like what these nosy westerners suspected, that won't be necessory, Tiananmen massacre is already in the past, past is the past, we learn from it and we move on. Personally i don't think the Chinese government is very proud of the decisons they made during the massacre. As to Tibet issue, obviously most of the Chinese people are not in favor of these monks and what they have been up to.

To these foreigners, you don't have to make a fuss about this, as we Chinese people are aware of what's going on here, we know what's the best for us. You mind your own business.

David

June 24, 2009 10:54 PM

@ huyu,
A good humor.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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