Foreign Policy Blogs

Endgame in China v Google

google-tankThe unstoppable force and immovable object may have begun their tango: it looks like China and Google are heading for a collision.

Reports from the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal (sorry, lame-o subscription) say that talks between the Chinese government and the search giant are at an impasse. The Chinese, meanwhile, have insisted that Google is obligated to obey their laws. Whatever they might be, I suppose. (Oh, but the Chinese government notes that  if Google ever complains formally they will go after those pesky hackers.)

Now MSNBC suggests that Google has in fact dropped its search filters in the Middle Kingdom – despite denials from Mountain View, apparently the iconic Tank Man image is again available by searching for Tienanmen Square 1989.

The ball appears to be in China’s court. Booting Google out will be the sort of overt move that modern authoritarians attempt to remove. One never wants to really rub it in the face of your subjects that you are in fact preventing them from accessing what they want. Still, I simply can’t imagine them conceding on this point – it seems like it would mean giving in on information control entirely.

Of course, given a core of Internet users like this, the PRC doesn’t really need to worry about democratizing pressure.

Among its least important consequences: the kerfluffle has left advertisers at their wits’ end.