Chinese lash back at Clinton in internet policy row
Google hints at new deal
China warned the United States yesterday that its criticism of internet censorship amounted to "information imperialism" and threatened to "harm" relations between the two countries.
The condemnation by the foreign ministry and state media was issued hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attacked the censorship policies of countries such as China and Iran, warning that an "information curtain" was descending across the world.
China reacted angrily to the US rebuke which came 10 days after Google said it could no longer operate under China's draconian censorship laws and threatened to pull the plug on its Chinese search engine.
"The US has criticised China's policies to administer the internet and insinuated that China restricts internet freedom," said a foreign ministry statement. "This runs contrary to the facts and is harmful to China-US relations.
"We urge the United States to respect the facts and cease using so-called internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China."
Beijing has sought to play down the dispute with Google. However, the Obama administration has used the row to highlight a fundamental clash in values between China and the free world that relies, socially and commercially, on unrestricted flows of information.
Last November, on his first visit to China, Barack Obama said he considered freedom of speech a "universal value", a view not shared by China's leaders who say controls are necessary to maintain social stability.
China's state-controlled media denounced Mrs Clinton's speech as "information imperialism".
Information from the West comes "loaded with aggressive rhetoric against those countries that do not follow their lead", said the English-language 'Global Times' newspaper.
Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said the company is to make changes to its censored Chinese engine a "short time from now". But he suggested the company wants to continue to do business in China.
In his first remarks since Google threatened to pull the Chinese plug, Mr Schmidt appeared to hint at a possible deal that would allow Google to remain in China.
"We like the business opportunities there, but we'd like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have but we remain quite committed to being there," he said.
Google has continued to censor searches according to Chinese law on its Google.cn search engine since it delivered its ultimatum. Mr Schmidt said: "We continue to follow their laws. But in a reasonably short time from now we will be making some changes there." (© Daily Telegraph, London)