China Clamps Down on Web, Pinching Firms Like Google

China’s online controls have not stopped four of its biggest internet companies from climbing into the global top ten, although further tightening may yet impose economic roadblocks. But The New York Times’ Keith Bradsher and Paul Mozur report that Chinese net censorship already presents serious obstacles to many, including foreign and domestic companies and researchers:

Chinese exporters have struggled to place ads that appeal to overseas buyers. Biotechnology researchers in Beijing had trouble recalibrating a costly microscope this summer because they could not locate the online instructions to do so. And international companies have had difficulty exchanging Gmail messages among far-flung offices and setting up meetings on applications like Calendar.

[…] “Companies overlooked Internet problems when the economy was booming,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Group, a Shanghai consulting firm. “But now a lot of companies are asking whether they really need to be in China.”

[…] “Internet security is being raised to a much higher degree,” said , a specialist in Chinese at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Information [and founder of CDT]. “It overrides the other priorities, including commerce or scientific research.” [Source]

While Bradsher and Mozur focus on Google, Tech in Asia’s Steven Millward reports that privacy-focused alternative search engine DuckDuckGo.com is now also blocked in China. (CDT readers who still have access to the site can use it to search our archives by starting queries with the code “!cdt”. DuckDuckGo is integrated into Apple’s new iOS 8 and forthcoming OS X Yosemite operating systems.)

See more on the varying fortunes of foreign tech firms in China via CDT.