GOOGLE IN CHINA

GOOGLE IN CHINA

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Google opened its office Beijing in 2005 and was able to attract some of China’s best and brightest to work for it. Google employed 600 people in China, half of them engineers, when it had its office in China. It still is widely used in academia, business and, yes, even by the government. Hundreds of officials have G-mail accounts. Google Translate, Google Maps, Google Scholar, and Google Reader are all popular services. An instructor at a business school told the Washington Post, “When I meet something unfamiliar, my first reaction is to Google it . Even when I can’t find my glasses, I have the impulse to search for them on Google.”

Baidu is the main search engine in China. It had a 78.3 percent share of China’s search engine market as of early 2012, according to Analysys International, a research firm in Beijing. Google Inc. was in second place with 16.7 percent, while Sogou, Tencent Soso and other competitors had less than 3 percent each. Google has invested millions of dollars in Baidu.com.

Google is China's second-most popular search engine but its market share has declined from 30.9 percent in early 2010 to 18.9 percent in June 2011. Baidu's market share has risen to 75.9 percent from 64 percent before Google's closure, according to Analysys International. In 2008 Google had 26 percent of the Chinese search engine market, compared to 60 percent for Baidu.com and only 9.6 percent Yahoo. It did well in surveys among hardcore Internet users.

Google was doing quite well in China in the early 2000s. But then suddenly in 2002, all access to Google was cut off for two weeks and then suddenly opened again. To this day no one is sure exactly how this happened. Man think it was the work of a Chinese rival, perhaps Baidu.com which is known for having a cosy relationship with the government. Google executives have pointed out that when the shit down took place Baidu.com had only 3 percent of the search engine market while Google had 24 percent. Since that time Baidu.com’s share of the market has grown steadily and it is now the largest search engine in China.

Google has invested millions of dollars in Baidu.com. In January 2007, it announced that it had bought a small stakes in Xunlei.com, a web site that offers video and music downloads, and China Mobile, China’s largest cell phone carrier, to provide mobile Internet search services.

Analysts say Google struggled to gain market share in China partly because the company had failed to build a big enough online community around its search engine, unlike its chief rival here, Baidu.com. Google’s late start in China made it difficult to keep pace with Chinese competitors, who were constantly rolling out new things to appeal to young Web users.

In October 2010, Google said it was still committed to China. Company Vice President John Liu said China was still a “very important market for Google” and pointed to the potential for digital marketing,

Google Content

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Google made a corporate decision in 2006, controversial even within the company, to establish a domestic Chinese version of its search engine, called google.cn. In doing so, it agreed to comply with China’s censorship laws.

Google has won brownie points with the Chinese government by creating an alternative search engine for China rather than using the one used everywhere else in world. In January 2006, Google announced that it would begin steering Chinese users to www.google.cn,, which follows Beijing’s orders by restricting access to certain sites and content. Google also does not offer Gmail e-mail service, Blogger Web log publishing services or chat rooms, which the government thinks may be used for political or social protests.

Used models similar to those used in Germany, where searching for Nazi memorabilia is restricted, and France, where there are restrictions on racist materials, Google users are notified if something they have searched for has been censored. Many business executive were not surprised by Google’s compliance with the Chinese government. They see the move as necessary one to do business in China. Human rights groups were more critical, accusing Google of selling out.

When Google set up its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn in 2006 it agreed to delete or block reference to Falun Gong, democracy movements, Tiananmen Square, the Dalai Lama and others. The Chinese government has said there is nothing usual about making such demands. It only asked the company to abide by the laws of China.

In June 2009, China’s Internet watchdog ordered Google to stop websites with “pornographic and vulgar” content being accessed though its Chinese-language search engine. Around the same time Google was blocked for about an hour and Internet users in China were unable to use it.

China’s state-run media has accused Google of providing links to pornographic sites. One state research firm said it had evidence of large scale searches for “mother son incest” using Google. A state-run television station interviewed a university students who purportedly became obsessed with pornography after searching for it on Google (later it was revealed the student was an intern at the television station that broadcast theinterview). [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post]

Copyright Laws, Google and the Internet

In January 2010, Google apologized to Chinese writers for scanning books under Chinese copyright after Chinese writers complained.Hu Yong of the China Media Project wrote: “In 2009, the Google Books Project was collectively condemned by Chinese writers for the unauthorized scanning of Chinese works. Representing the “victimized” writers, the China Written Works Copyright Society held three separate discussions with Google. Google issued a formal apology and proposed a mediation scheme in which it would pay 60 dollars per work, and provide writers with 63 percent of revenues from online readings of the works. [Source: Hu Yong, China Media Project, March 25, 2011]

This whole affair prompted an uproar in Chinese literary circles. Many pointed fingers at Google’s “Do no evil” policy, asking whether breaching copyright was good or evil. But at the time, no one applied the same logic or gave any thought to the greater evil at work behind this question. That’s right. I’m talking of course about China’s leading search engine, which vanquished Google on the domestic market. I’m talking about Baidu.

Article 36 of China’s Tort Liability Law stipulates very clearly that: “Where a network service provider knows that a network user is infringing upon a civil right or interest of another person through its network services, and fails to take necessary measures, it shall be jointly and severally liable for any additional harm with the network user.”

China’s internet industry is guilty of original sin when it comes to copyright violations, and this extends to major web portals like Sina in their development phase as well as to the damages incurred more recently by the music industry as a result of Baidu MP3. Even while web portals in China are becoming more conscious and attuned to copyright issues, Baidu has ultimately resisted dealing with copyright violations through its MP3 search service, even in the face of repeated legal action. Progressively, Baidu has extended this sort of piracy to other sectors, such as books and online literature.

Use the Google search engine to search “Baidu” and “right violations” in Chinese and you are returned more than 10 million search results. Of course, one important reason why Baidu has acted so recklessly in its copyright violations is that a massive population has already emerged in China that has accepted and approved of the idea that content should be free. One factor is rooted in a very factual problem, which is that right holders who have seen their rights violated find it difficult to unite in action against these violations. If they are unable to engage in collective bargaining, then the likelihood of victory against Baidu is small.

Baidu’s arrogance is a direct result of its majority control of the industry. At the same time, the government has been remiss in its supervision. Finally, our society as a whole has failed to respect the work that goes into intellectual property, and has failed to respect the value of the creative act. This has helped to fan the fires of copyright violation online.

Copyright violation is a long-standing problem, not limited to the internet. The internet has only made piracy more convenient and cost-effective.

Google Battles the Chinese Government

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Google Headquarters
In January 2010, Google threatened to pull out of China and said t would stop filtering Internet searches on its site in China after it was revealed that hackers in China attacked it and stole valuable corporate secrets from its computer systems. The company said it was also fed up be censored and manipulated by the Chinese government. Google’s plan to introduce cell phones were put on hold.

After Google complained it became possible to access sites through the search engine that previously were not available such as ones with photos of the Tiananmen Square massacre. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said, “Google sets a strong example in standing up to the Chinese government’s continued failure to respect the fundamental human rights of free expression and privacy.”

The attack on Google and the threat posed to the Internet and the American government was viewed as serious enough it become a diplomatic issue between the United States and China. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China to investigate the cyber intrusions of Google. Beijing responded by saying that it was not involved in the cyber attacks and that Washington’s demand implied that it was and said China was the biggest victim of cyber attacks, not the main source of them, with many of attacks on China originating in the United States.

Chinese Government Pressure on Google

Glanz and Markoff wrote: “Extensive hacking operations suspected of originating in China, including one leveled at Google, are a central theme in the U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks. “The operations began earlier and were aimed at a wider array of American government and military data than generally known, including on the computers of United States diplomats involved in climate change talks with China. [Source: James Glanz and John Markoff, New York Times, December 4, 2010]

The cables catalog the heavy pressure that was placed on Google to comply with local censorship laws, as well as Google’s willingness to comply — up to a point. That coercion began building years before the company finally decided to pull its search engine out of China last spring in the wake of the successful hacking attack on its home servers, which yielded Chinese dissidents’ e-mail accounts as well as Google’s proprietary source code.

The demands on Google went well beyond removing material on subjects like the Dalai Lama or the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese officials also put pressure on the United States government to censor the Google Earth satellite imaging service by lowering the resolution of images of Chinese government facilities, warning that Washington could be held responsible if terrorists used that information to attack government or military facilities, the cables show. An American diplomat replied that Google was a private company and that he would report the request to Washington but that he had no sense about how the government would act.

Chinese Government “Never Comfortable” with Google

James Glanz and John Markoff wrote in the New York Times, despite concession made by Google, Chinese officials were never comfortable with Google, the cables leaked by Wikileaks and interviews show. “The Chinese claimed that Google Earth, the company’s satellite mapping software, offered detailed “images of China’s military, nuclear, space, energy and other sensitive government agency installations” that would be an asset to terrorists. A cable sent on Nov. 7, 2006, reported that Liu Jieyi, an assistant minister of foreign affairs, warned the American Embassy in Beijing that there would be “grave consequences” if terrorists exploited the imagery.” [Source: James Glanz and John Markoff, New York Times, December 4, 2010]

A year later, another cable pointed out that Google searches for politically delicate terms would sometimes be automatically redirected to Baidu, the Chinese company that was Google’s main competitor in China. Baidu is known for scrubbing its own search engine of results that might be unwelcome to government censors.

Google conducted numerous negotiations with officials in the State Council Information Office and other departments involved in censorship, propaganda and media licensing, the cables show. The May 18, 2009, cable that revealed pressure on the company by Mr. Li, the propaganda chief, said Google had taken some measures “to try and placate the government.” The cable also noted that Google had asked the American government to intervene with China on its behalf.

But Chinese officials became alarmed that Google still did less than its Chinese rivals to remove material Chinese officials considered offensive. Such material included information about Chinese dissidents and human rights issues, but also about central and provincial Chinese leaders and their children — considered an especially taboo topic, interviews with people quoted in the cables reveal.

Google ultimately stopped complying with repeated censorship requests. It stopped offering a censored version of its search engine in China earlier this year, citing both the hacking attacks and its unwillingness to continue obeying censorship orders.

Cyber Attacks on Google

In January 2010, Google announced it had found “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property”. The attack was said to have targeted the Google e-mail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists. [Source: Paul Mooeney, South China Morning Post, September 26, 2010]

There was a systematic attack on Google and 33 other firms including Juniper Networks, Adobe, Yahoo, Symantec, and Northrop Grumman. One of the aims on the attack on Google it seemed was to gain information on human rights activists. Afterwards international journalists with Google accounts complained their e-mail had been hacked.

The Internet security firm McAfee later announced it had isolated the malicious software used in the attack, saying it exploited a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer that allowed attackers to secretly commandeer the victim’s system. McAfee analyst George Kurtz told the Washington Post, “The current bumper crop of malware is very sophisticated, highly targeted and designed to infect, conceal access, siphon data or, even worse, modify data without detection.” The programs “were primarily seen by governments, and the mere mention of them strikes fear in any cyberwarrior,”

Hackers stole some of Google’s computer code. The New York Times reported that security investigators tracked the source of the hacking attacks on Google to two Chinese educational institutions: Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School. Spokespersons with the schools denied the charges.

In response to the attacks, Google decided to team up with the National Security Agency (NSA) — the United States’ and the world’s premier electronic surveillance organization — to better defend itself from cyber attacks with the NSA helping Google figure out its vulnerabilities and developing hardware and software to combat it. In many cases like this the NSA tries to determine the cyber-‘signatures’ of the attackers and develop strategies and technology can be used to defend from attacks by these “signatures.” The NSA-Google alliance is a tricky one in that Google does not want to reveal any of its secret to the NSA nor provide the spy agency with access to its users or services.

Google Attack Ordered by Politburo Member Li Changchun

According to the WikiLeaks disclosures of U.S. State Department cables, leaked in December 2010, Google fell victim to politburo member Li Changchun, who launched a personal campaign against it after Googling himself and finding an abundance of critical material. The cable appears to suggest that the attacks on Google “were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticizing him personally,” according to the Guardian.

James Glanz and John Markoff wrote in the New York Times, “As China ratcheted up the pressure on Google to censor its Internet searches in 2009, the American Embassy sent a secret cable to Washington detailing one reason top Chinese leaders had become so obsessed with the Internet search company: they were Googling themselves. The May 18, 2009, cable, titled “Google China Paying Price for Resisting Censorship,” quoted a well-placed source as saying that Li Changchun, a member of China’s top ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and the country’s senior propaganda official, was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google’s main international Web site. [Source: James Glanz and John Markoff, New York Times, December 4, 2010]

When Mr. Li typed his name into the search engine at google.com, he found “results critical of him.” The propaganda chief ordered three big state-owned Chinese telecommunications companies to stop doing business with Google. Mr. Li also demanded that Google executives remove any link between its sanitized Chinese Web site and its main international one, which he deemed “an illegal site,” the cable said.

One cable, dated early 2010, quoted a Chinese person with family connections to the elite as saying that Mr. Li himself directed an attack on Google’s servers in the United States, though that claim has been called into question. In an interview with The New York Times, the person cited in the cable said that Mr. Li personally oversaw a campaign against Google’s operations in China but the person did not know who directed the hacking attack.

Google Leaves China

In March 2010, Google ended its service in China, redirecting service to an uncensored portal in Hong Kong. The Internet company said it would continue research in China and maintain a sales staff there. Google’s chief legal officer David Drummonds said in a blog post, “We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in the mainland. Yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”

The Hong Kong Google portal is not blocked but some searches by users in mainland China are restricted. For most mainland users using the Hong Kong portal is no different than using the China-based one, with Beijing able to censor it as it had done with Google China. Some analysts saw Google’s move to Hong Kong as a face-saving compromise between Google and China that allowed Google to remain in China without being under Beijing’s direct control.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, said one reason he decided to pull Google out of China was because China reminded him of the country of his birth, the former Soviet Union. After praising China for the progress it has made reducing poverty he said: “In some aspects of their policy, particularly with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents, I see the same earmarks of totalitarianism, and I find that personally quite troubling.”

Responses to Google Leaving China

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Some Chinese responded to Google’s departure by placing flowers — something usually done at funerals — at the company’s China headquarters to signify their sense of loss. One person who laid down a bouquet told the Washington Post, “I used to believe that overtime there would be more freedoms and openness. But I haven’t seen it so far. I feel lost.”

Human rights groups called the move “innovative” and hailed Google for not kowtowing to China. Sharon Hom of Human Rights of China told AFP, “Google is really thinking outside the box. They are technically staying in China but stopping censorship...It should be a message to other companies that they can come up with solutions other than the simplistic choice of staying in China and censoring or giving up and leaving.” Lucie Morillion of Reporters Without Borders said, “Google has taken a courageous position against censorship. Google is betting in the long-term future in a free Internet. It may be too early to tell, but we hope that the future proves them right.”

U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith said, “Google’s recent deliberations and decision are a blow against the cynical silence of so many when it comes to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.” It is a “blast of honesty and courage and a good example of responsible and principled corporate policy.”

China’s Response to Google’s Departure

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Google Headquaters
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Beijing reacted to Google’s departure by saying that Google was “totally wrong” and had “violated the written promise it made on entering the Chinese market.” It accused of Google and the United States government of being involved in a “deliberate plot” to destroy China. An editorial in the People’s Daily went: “The United States has been weakened by the international financial crisis and its wars against terrorism so the U.S. has shifted the strategic center from the military to the Internet. Google has become a tool of the U.S. to implement its Internet hegemony.”

The China Daily went as far as comparing the series of events with the Opium Wars, stating Google’s “arrogance can easily remind the Chinese people of the “big powers” who cracked open China’s doors by warships and cannons in the 19th century.”

Some analysts and pundits believe that although Beijing seemed to be all bluster and swagger on the matter in reality they were quite perturbed in that Google was first major corporation to leave China since Levi Strauss did it 1993 over “pervasive” human rights violations (the jean company returned to China in 2008). According to the Washington Post some Chinese officials expressed concerns at internal meeting about anti-government backlash.

Google After Its Showdown with Beijing

After Google left China for Hong Kong its share of the search engine market in China slipped to 24.2 percent in June 2010, down from 30.9 percent in March while Baidu’s share rose to 70 percent in second quarter of 2010, up from 64 percent in the first quarter. By March 2011, Google’s stature in China was considerably less than what it was before its trouble in China the year before. Its share of the Chinese search engine market had plunged (19.6 percent in the final quarter of 2010 compared to 30.9 percent in the first quarter) and a major portal said it would no longer use Google for its searches.

In July 2010, the Chinese government renewed Google’s business license to operate in China. Beijing had threatened to revoke the license. Google was granted the license after it promised to obey China’s censorship laws and stop automatically switching users to the unfiltered Hong Kong site. Even if web users use the Hong Kong search site Beijing controllers can block access to banned sites.

Google decided not to leave China completely in part because of its ambitions to offer music and mobile phone service. It is also pursing a translation service and e-commerce.

Google has turned its Chinese website into a landing page: anchored by a link that users must click on to send visitors to the Hong King search engine.

In March 2009, YouTube was blocked in China. A week or so before the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India, released a seven-minute video, which is being shown on YouTube, that purports to show Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans last March following the riots in Lhasa. There had been no independent confirmation that the footage was authentic.

Google Face Pressure Over Google Maps in China

In December 2010, the Global Times reported, “Google's web mapping service may be blocked in China if the search giant refuses to move its mapping server to the Chinese mainland for official licensing. Wu Jiang, a spokesman for the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, said "There is a possibility that those unlicensed mapping service providers will be closed down or blocked." [Source: Sun Zh, Global Times, December 28, 2010]

Online map service providers were required to get licensed with the bureau. Non-Chinese web map service providers are required to form a joint venture with a local firm and locate their data server in the Chinese mainland to undergo regular inspections for possible leakage of confidential information.

Google Maps is still in talks with the bureau on the license issue, said the bureau's Wu, who declined to say whether Google had decided to move its server to the mainland. Google closed its China website and transferred its servers to Hong Kong in March this year, after deciding it no longer wanted to censor search results.

The government asks mapping service providers to be staffed with mapping examiners, who would be trained by the bureau to sanitize territorially incorrect or sensitive military information, according to the bureau.

The bureau has so far issued licenses to about 50 web firms. The bureau also awarded itself a license to run Map World, a web-mapping portal launched late November. "Map World could be used to fill the market vacancy if Google Maps is discontinued," said Lai Bin, the editor in chief with Beijing-based IT magazine Net Friends.

Google E-Mail Disruptions

In March 2011, Google complained that Beijing was disrupting its e-mail service within China. The complaint was made following weeks of problems encountered by Google e-mail users’such as being unable to access G-mail or unable to send messages with some of the problems apparently linked to measures taken to censor messages associated with the so called “Jasmine Revolution.” Around the same time a Chinese government newspaper said three Google units were under investigation for possible tax offenses. In addition, Google angered Beijing by saying it no longer wanted to comply with web censorship.

David Barboza and Claire Cain Miller wrote in the New York Times. “Analysts who track Web developments say that the Chinese government may be intentionally disrupting access to Google and other Web services as part of a campaign to tighten Internet controls and censor material. [Source: David Barboza and Claire Cain Miller, New York Times 3 20 2011]

“There is no issue on our side; we have checked extensively,” Google said in a statement released Sunday. “This is a government blockage, carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail.”

Google Accounts Hacked from China

In June 2011, Reuters reported, “Hackers likely based in China tried to break into hundreds of Google mail accounts, including those of senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists, the Internet company said. The unknown perpetrators, who appeared to originate from Jinan in Shandong province, recently tried to crack and monitor email accounts by stealing passwords, but Google detected and "disrupted" their campaign, the world's largest Web search company said on its official blog. [Source: Alexei Oreskovic and Edwin Chan, Reuters, June 1, 2011]

“Google said the latest incident appears to have relied on tricking email users into revealing passwords, based on Google's description in its blog post. It said the perpetrators changed the victims' email forwarding settings, presumably secretly sending the victims' personal emails to other recipients. Schneier said the details that Google has released about the email hijacking do not appear that unusual. "For the past five years we've known that the Chinese conduct a lot of espionage over the Internet," he said. The bigger question, he said, was why Google was choosing to publicize this attack now.”

An announcement on the official Google blog said that hundreds of email accounts had been compromised in a “phishing” attack from China. "Through the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems, we recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists. The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegation settings. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.) Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities." [Source: China Digital Times June 1, 2011]

According to the Wall Street Journal: Google “also encouraged Gmail users to better protect their information online by using what’s called a “two-step verification” when logging into Gmail so that the system can recognize the computer or mobile device from which a user is logging in, not just his or her password. The process “protected some accounts” from the China-based attack, he said. The company has said there are more than 200 million Gmail users.

Google Asks U.S. Government for Help and the Chinese Response

Two days later Reuters reported: “The United States has asked Beijing to investigate Google's latest allegation of a major hacking attack that the Internet giant says originated in China, the State Department said. "We did raise our concerns with the Chinese about the allegations and asked them to take a look into them," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. Toner declined to provide details on what was conveyed to the Chinese, or whether the U.S. government believes Beijing may have had a hand in the alleged hacking attack.He said investigations of the case prevent him from saying more about Google's allegations. "We take them seriously and expressed that concern to the Chinese," Toner said. [Source: Reuters, June 3, 2011]

Neither Google nor the U.S. government has said that China was behind the attacks, which the Internet company merely said appeared to originate in China. China, for its part, has denied any role and called Google's allegations unacceptable. Beijing, often blamed for cyber attacks that have a murky provenance, says it is being unfairly accused by countries that are simply unhappy with China's swift economic, military and geopolitical rise.

The White House said it was investigating the claims, but referred Reuters to law enforcement. "We're looking into these reports and are seeking to gather the facts," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor. "We have no reason to believe that any official U.S. Government email accounts were accessed.”

AP reported, the FBI was is investigating allegations that computer hackers in China broke into Google's email system. "These allegations are very serious," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. "We take them seriously. We are looking into them." Clinton said attacks such as the one alleged by Google were a prime reason the State Department has for the first time created a cyber-security coordinator. "We know this is going to be a continuing problem and therefore we want to be as prepared as possible to deal with these matters when they do come to our attention," she said. [Source: Matthew Lee Associated Press, June 2, 2011]

A day after Google exposed the breach, China denied that it supports hacking and said it is part of global efforts to combat computer security threats. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that hacking was a global problem and Chinese networks had also been targeted by hackers, but he gave no specifics. He said China was working to crack down on the problem, but he didn't respond when asked whether it would investigate this specific incident. "Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives," Hong said.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily hit back against Google’s allegations by saying that Google had become a "political tool" used to vilify the Chinese government, and warning that the US internet company's statements could hurt its business.

Google Pulls Free Music Service in China

In September 2012, Michael Kan of IDG News Service wrote: “Google is shutting a Chinese music search service that offered free licensed music downloads because it wasn't popular enough, the company said.The announcement came in a blog posting from senior engineering director Boon-Lock Yeo, who said the company was shutting down the service in order to focus on improving more influential Google products. [Source: Michael Kan, IDG News Service, September 21, 2012 ]

Google launched its free music service in China in 2009 as a way to compete with rival Baidu, which offers a similar service that makes it easy for users to locate free MP3 downloads. To provide the free music, the service relied on links to licensed downloads from the Google-funded Top100.cn, a Chinese online music provider that has signed licensing deals with various labels across the world. But despite the partnership, Yeo said in his blog, "the product's influence never quite reached as high as our expectations for it. Therefore, we have decided to transfer its resources to other products." "It's regrettable, and we feel sorry about the shutdown," said Gary Chen, CEO for Top100.cn.

“The company initially had high hopes for Google's music service, which when launched exceeded Top100.cn's expectations for user numbers and advertising revenue. At the same time, the service was also important in pioneering a new business model for online music, at a time when most users in China were downloading pirated songs over the Internet. "This was the first licensed music service in China," Chen said. "We were very excited that Google wanted to build a music search service that could completely change China's music piracy landscape."

“But since 2010, Top100.cn.'s site has declined in popularity, which Chen attributes to the shutdown of Google's China-based search engine. "We gave a lot of suggestions to Google," he said, noting that online music business was a politically safer option for the search giant to invest in. "There are also a lot of cases of companies using music to expand. Baidu has its MP3 search, Apple has its iPod and iTunes. They all used music to build up their services," Chen said.

“One of the suggestions Chen recommended included Google offering an Android-based music service for China. But despite the input from Top100.cn, Google never changed its strategy, Chen said, and instead has decided to focus its resources on other products. With the loss of Google's music search, Top100.cn plans on shifting gears and focusing on areas like China's mobile Internet space. But despite the company's struggles, Chen said Top100.cn and Google helped stop online music piracy in China by providing an alternative business model. Last year, Baidu also began paying record companies to offer licensed music, after years of facing criticism for hosting links to pirated songs. "More sites are providing licensed music downloads now. It's because we started this project, that this happened," Chen said.

Google Loses Popularity in China

In September 2012, Michael Kan of IDG News Service wrote: “Google's popularity in the country has waned ever since 2010, when the company pulled the plug on its China-based search engine following disputes with the government over censorship and hacking concerns. As part of that shutdown, new services such as Google Play were never launched in China, while the few remaining services there, such as the company's music search, were left to continue to operate. [Source: Michael Kan, IDG News Service, September 21, 2012 ]

Once China's second largest search provider, Google has now fallen to fourth place, overtaken by other local companies, according to Internet analytics site CNZZ.com. Google's market share is at 5 percent, while Baidu's is 74 percent. Top100.cn, which is only accessible in China, still continues to operate in the country, with Google its largest shareholder. The company, however, expects the shutdown will have a major impact on its user base, 70 percent of which come from Google's music search.

Image Sources: Google, CN Review and IE Newscatcher

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2013


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