This report in the Chinese press first caught our attention regarding the possibility that the top brass at Google.com are rethinking the self-censoring Google.cn engine and their China policy in general. Google co-founder Sergey Brin made these remarks recently on a trip to Washington, DC:
“It’s perfectly reasonable to do something different, to say, ‘Look, we’re going to stand by the principle against censorship and we won’t actually operate there.’ That’s an alternate path,” Brin said. “It’s not where we chose to go right now, but I can sort of see how people came to different conclusions about doing the right thing.”
Of course, these remarks, despite coming from Sergey himself, don’t amount to actions. What is for sure is that Google has had its fair share of problems in China. As most of you probably have discovered, accessing Google.com from within China is a bitch. Gmail’s been finicky. One thing Shanghaiist has noticed, however, is that news.google.com is working better than it has in previous days, when clicking on links to news items got us nowhere — even run of the mill news was coming up blank. As of this morning, we were able to use news.google.com without a proxy server, which is the best part of waking up (despite not having Folger’s in our cup).
Brin’s remarks, taken at face value, seem not to be indications of a volte-face on Google’s part, but rather yet another move in the complex carrot-and-stick strategy that Google uses with the Chinese government.
But wait — we were about to give you a link to the Chinese government’s Thursday reply to the effect that foreign internet companies had to comply with Chinese laws in China, but Google news is no longer working, which is the government’s slightly less eloquent way of making the same point. So we went over to the enemy — Baidu — and found this report (in Chinese) — quite quickly and painlessly, we might add. Upon further “research” we found that news.google.CN works fine, but that under the science/technology news banner there is no mention of this news, whereas on the simplified Chinese news.google.com site we found several articles after scrolling down just a wee bit. Of course, what links you can get from the .cn version all work fine.
Anyhow, Google China’s already replied to the rumors swirling around by stating that they will not be leaving China anytime soon, saying that people were reading way too much into Brin’s remarks, and that all the problems that both the company and its users in China have faced are simply “growing pains” that they will, we assume, somehow outgrow. So when you think about this, you too should remember the optimistic lyrics of the Growing Pains theme song:
Show me that smile again. (Show me that smile)
Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.
We’re nowhere near the end (nowhere near)
The best is ready to begin.
Photo from miguelg’s Flickr page.