By publicly challenging China’s censorship, Google has stirred up the debate over the government’s claim that constraints on free speech are crucial to political stability and the prosperity that has accompanied it. Even if it is unlikely to pose any immediate threat to the Communist Party, Google’s move has clearly discomfited the government, Chinese analysts say.
“The average age of Chinese netizens is still very young,” said Hu Yong, a journalism professor at Peking University. “This is a matter of the future and whether the government’s Internet policy wants to fight with the future.
“If this process goes on, more and more people are going to realize that their freedom of information is being infringed upon, and this could bring changes down the line.”
Google may rank a distant second to the Baidu search engine, but its estimated 80 million users are comparatively better educated and wealthier. Surveys show that roughly two-thirds are college educated.