For Chinese People, Loss of Google Would Mean ‘Nothing but Darkness’

In the Washington Post, John Pomfret looks at how a potential departure of Google from China would impact Internet users in the country:

Since coming to China in 2005, Google has, as in much of the rest of the world, become embedded in the lives of its users. Its search engine has almost one-third of the market share in a country with 350 million Internet users. Hundreds of government officials have Gmail accounts, according to estimates by one senior Chinese official involved in monitoring the Internet. Chinese exporters can’t work without Google Translate. An estimated 12 million Chinese use Google Maps every day. Scientists and researchers rely on the Google Reader and Google Scholar for the latest in academic work.

“When I meet something unfamiliar, my first reaction is to Google it,” said Chen Xiaoqiang, a 30-year-old instructor at a business school, sounding like the average Web-savvy American. “Even when I can’t find my glasses, I have the impulse to search for them on Google.”

“Without Google, our academic research will be seriously affected,” said Ma Yuanye, a 55-year-old biologist based in Kunming in southwest China. “If Google is blocked, we will see nothing but darkness.”

But Google’s exit would mean something else to Chen, Ma and others like them — a kind of abandonment, they say. Although many interviewed said they supported Google’s decision to confront the Chinese government, they also said its departure would make them feel even more marginalized to the borders of Chinese society, stuck between a state committed to controlling information and a freer outside world.

March 19, 2010, 2:31 AM
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