Google.cn decision (part 2) and China’s Foreign Ministry & White House responses

For the record, I will list the China’s Foreign Ministry response to  David Drummond, Google Chief Legal Officer in Chinese and then English, both from Xinhua, the Chinese government officially approved, sanctioned, and mandated news source for all internal Chinese websites re the Google.cn decision (yes, it is illegal to quote or use any other news sources).

From 新华国际 “2010年01月14日 (外交部网站) 姜瑜就谷歌、海地地震、印度逮捕中国工程师等答问“,

问 [Question]:中国政府对谷歌公司宣布可能退出中国市场,不再和中国政府合作对网络内容进行审查有何回应?美国国务卿希拉里·克林顿要求中国对谷歌网络被攻击作出解释,中方对此有何回应?

答 [Answer]: 我想强调的是,中国的互联网是开放的,中国政府鼓励互联网的发展,努力为互联网的健康发展营造良好的环境。中国的法律禁止任何形式的黑客攻击行为。中国同其他国家一样,依法管理互联网,有关管理措施符合国际通行做法。我还想强调,中国欢迎国际互联网企业在中国依法开展业务。

关于第二个问题,如果美方联系中方,我们将向美方重申这一立场。

From Xinhua “China says its Web open, welcomes Int’l companies“,

China’s Internet is open and welcomes international companies, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday, just two days after Google issued a statement saying it might quit China.

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing that China encouraged development of the Internet.

“China’s Internet is open,” said Jiang. “China has tried creating a favorable environment for Internet,” said Jiang while responding to a question on Google’s possible retreat.

“China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law,” she said. “China’s law prohibits cyber crimes including hacker attacks.”

Here is the thing, China’s constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of speech too but that hasn’t exactly done Prof. Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) any good, has it? A sentence of 11 years imprisonment right on Christmas 2009 for signing Charter 08 along a few hundred other Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists.

So the bottom line is that we will need to see what the discussion between Google and the Chinese government comes down to.

Now Google has made a strong stand, I hope Google will make the right decision to be transparent and make the right choice between “good” and “profit”.

See my Google.cn decision – part 1.

P.S. What the Chinese based companies are saying now have little creditability in my eyes as the only way for them to survive is to obey the Chinese government.

In fact, I will go one step further and treat all Chinese companies’ spokespeople and senior executives as mouthpieces of the Chinese government. I will be very surprised if they suddenly decided to grow some political spine right at the time when spinelessness is the best way to stay profitable in China and be friends of the Chinese government.

P.P.S. For the record from NYT “Follow the Law, China Tells Internet Companies” (emphasis added),

After a day of silence, the Foreign Ministry said that China welcomed foreign Internet companies but that those offering online services must do so “in accordance with the law.” Speaking at a scheduled news conference, Jiang Yu, a ministry spokeswoman, did not address Google’s complaints about censorship and cyberattacks and simply stated that “China’s Internet is open.”

The remarks, and those of another high-ranking official who called for even tighter Internet restrictions, may speed Google’s departure and increase friction between Beijing and the Obama administration, which has made priorities of Internet freedom and online security.

“The recent cyberintrusion that Google attributes to China is troubling, and the federal government is looking into it,” Nicholas Shapiro, a White House spokesman, said Wednesday. Beyond voicing concern, United States officials had yet to say how they might respond.

If the foreign ministry’s comments were vague, those of Wang Chen, the information director for the State Council, or cabinet, were more pointed.

In the transcript of an interview posted Thursday on the council’s Web site, Mr. Wang urged Internet companies to increase scrutiny of news or information that might threaten national stability and stressed the importance of “guiding” online public opinion.

Web sites in China are required to employ people who monitor and delete objectionable content; tens of thousands of others are paid to “guide” bulletin board Web exchanges in the government’s favor.

“China’s Internet is entering an important stage of development, confronting both rare opportunities and severe challenges,” Mr. Wang said. “Internet media must always make nurturing positive, progressive mainstream opinion an important duty.”

Despite what appeared to be an unsympathetic stance toward Google, some analysts and writers saw an opening for compromise. Zhao Jing, a journalist and blogger popularly known as Michael Anti, described the government’s initial response as having struck a balance between moderation and not wanting to appear too quiescent to its domestic audience.

He said Goggle’s stature and the United States’ increasingly vocal stance on Internet freedom could not easily be ignored. Google’s pulling out, he said, would “set a bad example for the business climate in China and make a joke of the government claims of a free Internet.”

Such optimism was hard to find in the state-run Chinese media. Those that even covered the attack in much detail portrayed Google’s move as a cynical attempt either to embarrass Beijing or to escape its business failings in China. Even the English-language China Daily, which provides foreign readers a reliably liberal selection of news, ran on its front page the headline “Google Pullout Threat ‘a Pressure Tactic.’ ”

Guo Liang, the director of the China Internet Project at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he thought Google’s accusations were little more than public whining. “Google may use politics as its excuse, which is easy for Westerners to accept, but in essence this is just a business failure,” he said. [k-note: A well-known Chinese entrepreneur gave the business failure rationale too.] “If I were the government, I wouldn’t even bother to respond.”

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