Thursday, 25 June 2009

China vs Google

There’s a battle going on between China and Google. Google can’t win and China can only lose. Just for the record, its China who started this battle .

The stakes were upped yesterday night, when the Net Nanny blocked Google. Yes b-l-o-c-k-e-d Google. Google everything – Search, Gmail, the works ! I’m gob smacked. What are they thinking ?

For some weeks China has been demanding that Google block searches from throwing up pornographic content. That’s the official stated demand. But we all know what this means. We know what they want to block.

In China, Google is not the dominant search engine. In fact their market share is some 20% or so. The dominant search engine by far is Baidu. This demand for blocking has not been made of Baidu and searches on Google and Baidu throw up virtually the same results.

Google is in a bind. How can they react. If they give in, this is against all that they stand for. If they don't, they get blocked and out of one of the most important markets in the world. Heads I win, Tails you lose.

China has also brought in a rule that from July 1, all PCs sold here have to have a net blocking software called “Green Dam Youth Escort”, preinstalled. Again the ostensible reason in blocking pornography. But we know what the intentions are. The move has raised a separate storm, with a US company Solid Oak claiming that Green Dam has plagiarised its software and threatening to sue. The University of Michigan waded in publishing a host of security weaknesses in Green Dam. What a mess.

Meanwhile a whole host of services – YouTube, Blogspot, WordPress, …. remain blocked.

Something is happening in China. This is not business as usual.

- Maybe this is some form of protectionism – taking sides in Baidu vs Google.
- Maybe there are some internal power struggles
- Certainly this is taking censorship to a new level.
- It is difficult to believe that the nanny really thinks she can win.
- Meanwhile a whole army of people are pissed off.

India can rest easy. China is not a threat to its IT and services industry. Its lead is safe and China is not going to catch up. Not with such asinine stuff.

PS - After I posted this, my blogger friend Hang, posted on this matter in his blog, Beijing Barefeet. Click here to read his post for an authentic Chinese response to internet censorship.


  1. this is one of those posts which i read and assimilate and just got 'wow' at your writing and 'WT...' at the drama that is playing out..
    also i marvel, despite all this, you still continue to blog, leave comments and generally stay in touch..wish the situation changes soon and there is some form of sense that prevails..

  2. It's something stupid. They should have blocked Baidu as well. There is not much difference between Baidu and Google when it comes to pornography search. Chinese netizens are cursing the block in numerous online forums. It has caused great inconvenience to many people. It's even more frustrating if your primary email is with Gmail... Proxy!

  3. In a world where Google has been elevated to being a verb, it looks like a tough life without Google. I kind of feel its a subtle form of KGB(When I was reading this post, I was thinking of George Orville's 1984.) I do feel sorry for the Chinese junta who are losing out. For what its worth, maybe you can check Microsoft's (Though Google has better scope)

  4. @ AJCL - Its really a drama being played out. We learn to live with the swings back and forth ..

    @thoughtful train - Yes it does look a bit 1984esque ...

  5. Hang - I salute you and all our fellow netizens in China. Its not an easy situation and you handle it with such tact and determination. You express dissatisfaction, but with grace. Hats off.

  6. OMG! Blocking google sounds like end of the world as I know it, to me.
    Ramesh, despite all this you blog, you connect, you comment. Really apprciate your ay of 'working around a problem'.
    Warm regards

  7. This post reminded of the movie 'Equilibrium'. Total fascist control over civilian lives. And you would be Christian Bale then :)

  8. Anonymous25/6/09

    Ramesh, in 1992/93 I personally witnessed the Construction Bank IT people clone the core banking system that my consortium (two very well known companies) were looking to private label in China. There is no IPR protection in China, and anything is justified on the grounds of Chinese national interest. Dada

  9. If Google was blocked, they would have to use another really pwoerful search engine to diagnose my slow dissolution into space using nano technology ...or something like that ..and why are they so "hung" upon protecting people from porn is not like a secret recipe ...a little ironic coming from the most populous country ....great post Ramesh ..and I hope you always find the "patli gali" to come back to blog and post comments !!

  10. @ all - Pl see Post script I added to this post.

  11. @ Preeti - Its because of the wonderful online friendships I am privileged to have.

    @ dada - welcome back. Oh yes, Shanzhai is such a phenomenon that it has its own Wikipedia entry. For a very interesting copycat story click here

  12. @ blogueur - Porn is only a fig leaf (pun intended), for the real reason. But thay have gone too far. The Chinese forums were abuzz today with anger. Read the link on my post script on the post to get a sense of how the Chinese are feeling.

  13. It's really sad. Can't understand what the Chinese Govt. is trying to achieve and the means being employed are totally... asinine is the word

  14. Of all the crazy things; they blocked google? i think the ppl or rather the govt. there is crazier than i country that blocks google has business knowledge or neither can they get ahead in for porn doesn't this "baidu" return the same results?..i read hang's post too...i loved the picture he used.."WE ARE ANONYMOUS"..absolutely hilarious but actually its a pity...

  15. I read Hang's post oozes of annoyance and more ... hope it achieves what it is attempting to ..this is so "not" cool !!

  16. I read Hang's post and also the 'Declaration of the Annonymous' that he has linked. (The English version)
    Powerful and inspiring words indeed and I really salute Hang's spirit and millions of netizens who have united.

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  18. Ramesh, thanks for mentioning my post. Honestly, I feel embarrassed that stupidity like this is still happening in this country. The government really need to learn from the outside world and refrain from acting as a big nanny to the people in this country.

  19. @ Ajay - Christain Bale ? no way. I am just a humble citizen of Libria, dutifully taking Prozium and having no clue of the esoterics of Gun Kata !

    @ Rads, Preeti, blogueur - thanks for visiting Hang's blog.

  20. SevenRams26/6/09

    I work in China too.They have blocked all proxies except a few through one of which I have reached here and placed my comment.It looks like this will be closed out soon. I sincetrely hope Ramesh finds other ways to get back into cyberspace and blog. We all love his writing.

    Something is happening here.. will we will know soon? We will know what they want us to know soon.

    '1984' was scary.Wait till you read this. The Green Dam Youth Escort - yet another 'copy' seems to be a mandatory installation for PCs to be sold from 1 July. It will prevent PCs from acessing 'certain' sites! They are also going to install it as a mandate for all PC users and will issue free installable CDs for the same to all. The ones who dont comply will be tracked down and impressed upon.

    It is not unknown that in today's world technology can take over any networks and PCs on any location across the world and destroy them or use them.We saw a 'trailer' of that with the 'Ghost' scanning computers in cyberspace for information on another taboo here. The screens of laptops and TVs and what not can be turned into cameras that can spy into your businesses and living rooms too! Welcome to total cyber domination soon! Viva Zhong Guo!

  21. Thanks Seven Rams for visiting and your nice comment. As you say, something out of the normal is happening. This is not normal stuff from the authorities. There seems to be extreme paranoia and knee jerk blocking - what value have they gained by blocking google for 2 days and then reopening ?? We shall wait and see and meanwhile, just like you, we'll all find ways to keep going ...


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