Google got swindled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Today on their official blog, Google announced a new business approach toward China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in response to serious cyber attacks against Google and an array of other targets that originated in China in December 2009.
Google’s response will be to seek the removal of China’s required censorship of Google searches, or completely remove their business operations from China.
This is kind of a big deal. Let me explain why.
In early 2006, Google launched Google.cn, the Chinese-language version of Google.com, which promised to be a major proponent of freedom of information in a country where the State government controls all information — from the news and newspaper media, to the internet, to cell phone text messages.
The internet search engine giant’s arrival in China would have been a great victory for the future of democracy in China, if they didn’t agree to collude with the Chinese Communists and censor Google.cn search results. (An example of the censorship is depicted in the image above: on the left, Google.com uncensored search results of “Tienanmen;” on the right, Google.cn censored search results of the same phrase.)
Google’s decision was met with fierce opposition by proponents of liberty, international human rights activists, and those favoring democratic reforms in the Communist nation.
As someone who has studied Chinese history and the sociopolitical prospects of democratization in China for years, I found Google’s decision to be a reprehensible one, and yet sadly in line with the corporation’s pattern of prioritizing business expansion, financial growth and continuing dominance of the information trade over human rights and the advance of liberty worldwide.
Now, three years later, it appears that Google got swindled by the CCP from the beginning.
Google’s statement this afternoon reveals that the December cyber attacks not only originated in China, but that Google believes they were orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Government themselves, and were motivated by the CCP’s desire to steal email communications and personal information about political dissenters:
“…a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.”
If the cyber attacks were sponsored or carried out by agents of the CCP, the Communist Party swindled Google by exploiting their prominence in the information exchange industry in order to discover the country’s political dissenters, and in order to ultimately silence them.
Google essentially operated as the Communist Party’s invisible Trojan Horse — and without Google so much as realizing it. But then again, that’s the risk of selling your soul for the Almighty Yen. Reflecting upon the 2006 decision hindsight, Google now says:
“We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. …”
Was Google’s motivation for such a business endeavor truly as ideological as they make it seem? Hardly. Google — a major, global corporation valued at billions of dollars — was primarily interested in scoring some major Yen.
I’ve watched Google’s business operations unfold over the years with a raised eyebrow — from dubious online search result practices, to Google’s news feeds curious behavior of story inclusion and exclusion, to Google’s refusal to honor patriotic national holidays on their website (until late 2008), to their Google Chrome license in the EU that claimed whatever a user creates with their web browser is property of Google… and so on, and so on. Some have even wondered aloud, “Does Google Hate America?”
Now, one must wonder how Google’s business practices will change.
Google’s decision to change its business practices in China reveal that their blatant disregard for advancing total freedom of information in China — as indicated by the company’s willful coercion to censor internet information on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party — was morally and ethically sound, so long as Google itself did not incur financial consequences. And now, the December cyber attacks have apparently revealed to Google that their warm welcome into China by the CCP was a entirely a rouse:
- The Communists invited a corporation with global reach in instantaneous communications to develop and install mass infrastructure;
- The Communists then allowed the Chinese people to create their Gmail accounts, utilize Google search features and exchange millions of emails;
- The Communists apparently then hacked Google systems to attempt to steal as much information as possible about the Communist Party’s enemies — ordinary men and women who are fighting and dying for basic human rights that the West takes for granted.
Google, once an “anti-corporation,” was too strongly lured into China by the Almighty Yuan. They sold their soul only to be ultimately swindled by a repressive regime that looked to exploit the Comms giant on behalf of sinister and oppressive political ends. Now, we bear witness to see if Google will properly react by prioritizing the advancement of complete and free information exchange, human rights, and democracy worldwide, a little higher than they have in the recent past.
UPDATE 1/14 — China’s first response to the Google announcement is to demand foreign web companies to continue to obey Chinese censorship laws.