4 Consequences of Google's China Exit

Bad news for Chinese scientists, bad news for Google's bottom line, and a bold statement against censorship

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In a defiant move, Google has officially shut down its Chinese search site. Users visiting Google.cn are now redirected to a Hong Kong portal, Google.hk where search results appear uncensored. Currently supported by servers in Hong Kong, Google said it is "fully aware" the Chinese government may block access to the site. In many ways the company's exit is unprecedented and gives rise to a myriad of consequences. Here's what technology writers are focusing on:

  • Cleanses Google's Reputation, cheers Preston Gralla at Computer World: "China will become the world's largest Internet market, and in taking this step, Google is endangering its standing there. True, it only has a relatively small market share at this point, but that would have changed over time, and even a relatively small market share of a large market means a lot of revenue. It's rare that a tech company --- or any company, for that matter --- takes a stand this principled, and Google should be congratulated for it. Other tech companies, notably Apple and Microsoft, should follow suit, although all signs point to them continuing to cooperate with Chinese censors."

  • Fully Exposes China's Censorship, writes Dan Nosowitz at Fast Company: "Google almost expects China to block the crap out of the redirect. They'll even be creating a new site to monitor exactly how much of their new services are being forcibly blocked by the Chinese government, updated daily. Google is also showing a little concern about the future of its 600-person sales staff in China, and issuing a bit of a challenge to the Chinese government: if they shut down the redirect to Google HK, Google will have to lay off a percentage of its sales team, as they'll not be needed."
  • Puts the Onus on China to Liberate the Internet, says Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology: "[We applaud] Google for following through on its commitment to protect human rights and for its continued effort to enable China's people with unfiltered access to robust sources of information from all over the world. Whether the Chinese people will be able to take advantage of Google search now rests squarely with the Chinese government."
  • Cripples the Work of Chinese Scientists, writes Alexis Madrigal at Wired. This is one of the "unintended consequences" of Google's exit, writes Madrigal:

A Nature News survey of Chinese scientists found that 84 percent of them thought losing access to Google would “somewhat or significantly” hurt their work process. Like their American counterparts, Chinese researchers use Google and Google Scholar to find papers and related information.

“Research without Google would be like life without electricity,” one Chinese scientist told Nature... If events do continue in that direction, truly global enterprises like science could suffer as information becomes harder — even if only moderately — to exchange.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.