Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's going on with Google and China?

Is Google doing the bidding of the U.S. government by threatening to leave China, ostensibly in a dispute over Beijing's efforts to censor content on the Internet? It might as well be, since last week's surprise announcement by the Internet search giant suggests many of the responsibilities the United States expects China to voluntarily accept as a world superpower. Of course, the most important among them is to stop jailing political opponents and otherwise mistreating its citizenry. Good luck with that, right? But it does demonstrate to China the urgency and complexity of good world citizenship. Google's threat -- so far not implemented -- already has affected relations between China and the United States, and not in a good way, according to the Reuters international news service. Top officials in the Obama administration called Google's announcement "a big deal," Reuters said. China has not commented officially on Google's threat, which the company said was in reaction to censorship of its Web sites from Beijing and to a series of cyber attacks emanating from China. But Google and other U.S. companies have done Beijing's bidding for years, even allowing the Chinese government to use their servers to track down dissidents. And the U.S. government has seemingly gone along with it. But now, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke called Google's concerns about Internet security in China "troubling." "The administration encourages the government of China to work with Google and other U.S. companies to ensure a climate for secure commercial operations in the Chinese market," Locke said. Of course, the new U.S. focus could be due to the change of administrations in Washington, even though Obama government officials spent last year trying to make Beijing comfortable with lending $800 billion to Washington. Lately, however, the United States has angered China by agreeing to sell sophisticated weaponry to Taiwan, agreeing to meet with the Dalai Lama and putting tariffs on some of China's exports. Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom group that had criticized Google in the past for complying with Beijing's demands, applauded the Silicon Valley company for what it called "standing up to the Chinese authorities."

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