China Issues Warning to Major Partners of Google

As the conflict between Google and the Chinese government continues without resolution, authorities have stepped up their warning to the company by reminding its web partners that they must continue with censorship even if Google does not. From the New York Times:

Chinese government information authorities warned some of Google’s biggest Web partners on Friday that they should prepare backup plans in case Google ceases censoring the results of searches on its local Chinese-language search engine, said the expert, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation by the government.

The warning was the latest indication that two months of negotiations between Chinese officials and Google over government censorship have reached an impasse. The two sides have been at a standoff since Google announced in January that it planned to stop self-censoring the results of searches on its Chinese site, google.cn, in reaction to what it described as China-based cyber-attacks on its databases and e-mail accounts.

The warning was intended to head off a wave of frustrated users should their internet searches be stymied because of Google’s conflict with the government. Google controls nearly 30 of China’s Internet search market.

Also from the Wall Street Journal, via PoliticalDog101.com:

Google’s threat to stop censoring challenges the core premise of engagement with China for the last several decades: that the country is so big and its market so important that it must be accepted on its own terms.

Google’s challenge to Beijing stunned the business world. It is unusual for a company to publicly take issue with China’s policies—particularly something as sensitive as censorship—and even rarer for one to talk about the possibility of scaling back its business or leaving a market that is so important.

“If Google does indeed get shut down, it is not the end of the story—it is the beginning,” said Xiao Qiang, the director of the China Internet Project at University of California at Berkeley. It is the beginning of the ‘Chinternet,’ which is under Chinese government regulation. It will control so much that even Google cannot exist. Other companies will have to face the same choice of whether to continue to operate under China’s heavy regulation or leave the country.

Earlier this morning (9:30 am, March 15, 2010 Pacific Time) , CDT took the screenshot below of what appeared to be uncensored results of an image search for “89学生运动” on Google.cn, via a proxy computer inside of China:

Currently (2:20 pm PST), the same search yields very different results, which again appear to be censored:

CDT does not know what caused the differing search results in such a short period of time. But the former display had generated lots of attention among Chinese twitterers.