A Clarification on Earlier Searching-in-China Note


Last night US time, as Tuesday morning was breaking in China, I posted a detailed report from a reader there about what he was finding, after Google had redirected its Google.cn Chinese-language service to a site in Hong Kong. (Hong Kong, again, has been a "Special Administrative Region" of the People's Republic since the British handover in 1997, but it operates under many different rules from the mainland, notably those covering press freedom and individual expression.)

The reader, who is in the tech industry suggested that the new reality indicated an expansion of mainland China's censorship regime. That is, the results on Google's Hong Kong site were not being censored by Google -- but they still were interrupted before a web user inside China could see them.

If I had parsed this more carefully before posting it (a lesson for the future), I would have inserted a note saying that this is not necessarily so -- as many other readers have pointed out to me overnight. As explained two years ago here, the Chinese "Great Firewall" system has for a long time been sophisticated about limiting how many outside-China results can make their way into mainland. So this could be nothing more than the automatic operation of the previous system, treating the Hong Kong servers as a "foreign" source. It's possible that something more has changed, but that initial report doesn't prove that it has. I wanted to note this clarification and to thank all in China for their reports.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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