Sunday 20 October 2019

Google faces backlash from China's state-run media

Google's fans light the candles on the Google logo at its China headquarters. Photo: Getty Images
Google's fans light the candles on the Google logo at its China headquarters. Photo: Getty Images

Peter Foster in Beijing

Google is facing a mounting backlash in China following its decision to shut down its Chinese search engine, with a fresh wave of crowing editorials from the country's state-controlled media denouncing the company.

The apparently orchestrated attacks against the San Francisco internet giant came as the US warned that Beijing should "carefully consider" the implications of the world's most recognisable brand refusing to operate in China.

However the English-language China Daily welcomed Google's departure, accusing it of spreading pornography and subversive content, adding defiantly that the Chinese web would "continue to grow in a cleaner and more peaceful environment" without

The Global Times, a recently launched newspaper aimed at spreading China's soft power around the globe, said that Google had made a "huge strategic misstep" by pulling out of the Chinese market of 380m online users.

The People's Daily overseas edition went further, accusing Google of colluding with the US government security agencies and speculating whether the Google pullout wasn't the first round in a new US-sponsored internet war against China.

"For Chinese people, Google is not god, and even if it puts on a full-on show about politics and values, it is still not god," said a front-page commentary in the paper.

"In fact, Google is not a virgin when it comes to values. Its cooperation and collusion with the US intelligence and security agencies is well-known," it added.

"All this makes one wonder. Thinking about the United States' big efforts in recent years to engage in internet war, perhaps this could be an exploratory pre-dawn battle."

The editorials follow a similar series of nationalistic attacks last weekend apparently aimed at deflecting blame for the pullout away from China's draconian system of internet controls and onto the "arrogant" and futile attempt of the US company to impose its values on China.

The invective was in contrast to the Chinese government's less inflammatory official statements on Tuesday which promised not to let the row damage China-US relations, so long as the dispute was not politicised.

China had also still made no move so far to shut down Google's new search service – routed via an uncensored server in Hong Kong – choosing instead to censor unwanted search results through its Great Firewall.

The Obama administration said that while it opposed internet censorship it did not want to politicise Google's decision, reaffirming the value the US placed on its economic relationship with China after three decades of burgeoning trade.

"That said, were I China, I would seriously consider the implications when one of the most recognizable institutions has decided that it's too difficult to do business in China," added Philip Crowley, the US State Department spokesman.

Industry analysts are now watching closely to see whether Google's advertising, sales and mobile phone search business can thrive under the new Hong Kong arrangement.

At its China headquarters, where a few people laid flowers following the announcement of the pullout on Tuesday, Google said it was "business as usual", but admitted that staffing levels would have to be adjusted "according to business demand."

In the first sign of the difficulties that could lie ahead for Google, TOM Online, a provider of online and mobile services in China, said it would drop Google's search box from its site to avoid violating any Chinese laws, switching to homegrown search giant Many analysts predicted that other Chinese companies could now shy away from dealing with Google to avoid being seen to support a company which has delivered such a public slap in the face to the Chinese government.

Google shares fell $8.50, or 1.5pc, to $549 on Tuesday, with the most pessimistic analysts predicting it could fall by as much as drop by as much as $50 - or about 10pc - in the coming weeks as the fallout from its China decision becomes clear.

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