There had been speculation about an outcome for several weeks now ever since Google (GOOG) had announced its intention to stop filtering search results. And finally it happened today, Google took drastic action basically taking action against the Chinese government. It took the step of redirecting all traffic from its Chinese website, Google.cn to its Hong Kong operations. There users can find an unfiltered search engine in their language. This is a direct attack towards the Chinese government and it did not take much time to generate reactions:
-”They stressed that foreign companies in China should abide by Chinese laws, and if Google is willing to abide by Chinese laws, we continue to welcome it operating and developing in China. If Google insists on dismantling the search service of its Chinese website, that is Google’s own affair. But it must follow Chinese law and international custom, and responsibly handle the aftermath.” – Chinese Official
Google carefully explained its decision on its own blog. This was not a mistake, not an error, it was a carefully planned move, that had been discussed with the US government with even Barack Obama being kept informed about the process that led to this outcome. What’s most clear is that this is a bold move. No matter how powerful Google might be (and it clearly is very much so), this is a bold move that could have massive implications for internet users in China as well as all companies involved in the Chinese market.
It is an interesting strategy because it is not illegal. The Chinese website owned by Google does not display unfiltered results, which would have made it easy for Beijing to kick out the internet giant. But let’s face it, the result is the same and the ball is now in China’s camp. It can now either block Google and deal with internal problems or a less likely scenario would be for China to now compromise or be more flexible with Google. How likely is that to happen? I’d say almost impossible. China considers itself a world power and surely hates to see Google challenge its power right now.
Of course Baidu right now is looking like a very bright star. There is no doubt that the Chinese government will be on Baidu’s side in the near future. I had been hesitant to take a position on Baidu but I’m getting more comfortable with the idea and might become even more so when it becomes more clear how the Chinese government will react to Google’s recent challenge…