Google ‘may announce China plans on Monday’

Google ‘may announce China plans on Monday’

Friday, 19 March 2010

••• Google Inc. may pull out of China on April 10, China Business News reported Friday, citing an unidentified Chinese sales agent for the company.

The search engine may announce its exit Monday , the Shanghai-based newspaper reported, citing an unidentified Google China employee. It may reveal plans for its China work force on the same day, according to the report.

The company hasn’t confirmed the April 10 date for its pullout, although CEO Eric Schmidt said last week that something should happen soon.

A Tokyo-based spokeswoman for the company, Jessica Powell, declined to comment on the newspaper report.

In January, Google challenged the government of the world’s most populous country by threatening to allow all search results to be shown on its Chinese-language Web, including references to Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The Chinese government, which restricts Internet content, said the company had to obey its rules. The two sides have since been in talks to resolve the issue.

Google told its China employees after the January announcement that, should a pullout occur, they would have the option of moving to the company’s U.S. headquarters or working for its Asia-Pacific operations, the report said.

That suggests an exit from the Chinese market would only include the closure of Google.cn, rather than a complete end to Google’s business in China, the report said. Google has about 35 percent of the Chinese search market.

A pullout by the U.S. company would mean it would probably be unable to return to the world’s biggest Internet market, said Peter Lui, formerly the company’s financial controller for the Asia Pacific region.

The public manner in which Google announced its intention means it may have “burnt bridges, and they’ve burnt the Google brand in China,” Lui said. “There is no way Google can ever come back.”

The company said it decided to stop censoring content after discovering its computers had been hacked from within China. Google said its systems had been targeted by highly sophisticated attacks aimed at obtaining proprietary information, as well as personal data belonging to Chinese human rights activists who use the company’s Gmail service.

At least 20 other international companies were similarly targeted, Google said.

The New York Times reported last month that the origins of the attacks had been traced to Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School in eastern China’s Shandong province. The reports are “totally groundless,” said Qin Gang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

McAfee Inc., the second-largest maker of computer security software that has been exploring the attacks with larger rival Symantec Corp., said this month it had discovered at least six incidents in which the computer systems that companies use to house valuable intellectual property had been accessed. Security research firm ISEC Partners Inc. said the attacks that Google reported employed skills that were “much greater than most enterprises are equipped to deal with.”

Speculation that negotiations had faltered intensified after the government said last week the plan to stop filtering at its Google.cn site was irresponsible. Some Google advertisers in China have been advised to switch to rivals, including Baidu Inc.

China censors online content it deems critical of the government by shutting down Web sites based in the nation and blocking access to overseas sites, including those of Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and YouTube. The Chinese service started by Google in 2006 limits search results to comply with government restrictions, such as blocking access to sites that discuss Taiwan or Tibetan independence, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and the Tiananmen Square military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

China has 384 million Internet users, according to government data, more than the total U.S. population.
• Source(s): AFP, Cox Media & CNN


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