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China and Google - Tug of War

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Do you know where the Google-China issue started? To answer this question, which country has the most number of Internet users in the globe these days? I think you should have guessed it right. 384 million users in China are topping the list. From only 23 million users in 2000, after ten years, their number has blown up tremendously. Indeed, China is the most populous country nowadays and also has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Nowadays, however, this country is going head to head with another giant – no other than Google.

Lots of bickering are coming non-stop from both sides of the fence. China calls the other side“information imperialist”. Google, on the other hand, complains about the Internet censorship in China. There are also claims that the Chinese government is behind the hacking incident in Google and its system.

The issue started in August 2000, when Google introduced its search engine in traditional and simplified Chinese. It then signed a search agreement with China’s Netease. Sergey Brin, co-founder and president of Google, once said that, "No matter what language our users speak, Google helps individuals find the information they are looking for on the web with unprecedented levels of ease, speed, and relevancy.".

Two years later, in September, China has blocked access to Google and directed the traffic instead to local search engines due to a major Communist part summit. As matters became worse, in September 2004, Google's news service in China did not display results from sites blocked by the government. In 2005, surprisingly, Google was permitted to open its office in China. In the same year, Google hired Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft executive, to lead Google China. After another year, Google launched Google.cn and complied with China's strict censorship demands. In October 2007 YouTube launched a service in Taiwan, but was also temporarily blocked. Later on, China temporarily shut down YouTube after images of China's crackdown on Tibet became viral on the site.

Would you believe this: during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, YouTube was not allowed to show Olympic broadcasts? Instead, China directed YouTube viewers to the state-controlled CCTV. Ultimately, in 2009, China blocked YouTube for undisclosed reasons. And incidentally, Google's Kai-Fu Lee quit four years after he got appointed in his post.

After the hacking of Google accounts was reported by none other than the Chinese government, Google reports that it may shut down its Chinese search engine - and potentially close its offices in China - if the Chinese government would not allow it to run an uncensored search engine that abides with the law. A lot of Chinese Google users continue to rally in front of the company's headquarters in Beijing.

On a deeper level, it may not just be a war between Google and China, but perhaps a battle between two powerful countries: the United States and China. It’s a toss for ultimate supremacy. How do you think would this story end? How will the world be affected by this continuous heated argument between these two superpowers? Other issues at hand involve repression of the freedom of expression. With the kind of technology available to virtually everyone in the world, we can do almost anything we want – anytime. How would you feel if your use of the World Wide Web is limited to a certain point? That’s what could happen to Chinese web users if Google would fully close its doors to China. As of the moment, Google’s future in China remains uncertain.
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