January 18, 2010
A Short Google-China Update
When I wrote about the Google-China affair last week, I suggested it was appropriate for Microsoft, Yahoo, and the State Department to step up to bat. Microsoft did by simply saying the company intends to stay in China and follow the laws. That assumes Bing access in China will be censored and anyone there with a Hotmail account will can expect Microsoft to turn in account details to authorities with proper judicial process. Yahoo got in trouble with the Chinese Internet company Alibaba, in which it holds a 40% stake, for supporting Google. Alibaba objected to the statement because, from its view, there was no evidence that the Chinese government was involved in the attacks.
The State Department addressed the issue as well. Secretary Clinton issued the following statement:
We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation. The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy. I will be giving an address next week on the centrality of internet freedom in the 21st century, and we will have further comment on this matter as the facts become clear.
Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley had this to say in response to press questions about the issue:
MR. CROWLEY: So I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re adding something new to the relationship. This – in terms of U.S.-China relations, it is a broad, it is a deep, it is an expanding and durable relationship. That said, as part of the ongoing strategic and economic dialogue that we have with China, we are going to have questions that have been raised on economic policies, on the ability of China to continue to meet international standards in terms of its products and services. But I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily different than the range of issues that we continue to work on with China.
QUESTION: The Secretary today said that they got word from Google about their concerns about this sometime in the past. Can you give us any kind of date on when that happened? I know that the President mentioned Google multiple times when he was in Shanghai. Was it as far back as his trip, or –
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have had discussions with China going back for some time over questions of network security, questions of internet freedom. So this has been a subject that we have raised with China on a number of occasions, and you’ve heard us from the podium here express concerns about Chinese efforts to restrict access to the internet, and we will continue to raise those questions. Google did inform us of their concerns and the particular incidents that prompted their announcement yesterday, and they – over the recent few days.
New facts about the extent of the hack attacks include targeting the Google email accounts of foreign correspondents in China, and that some employees of Google China are under investigation for possibly helping in the attacks. There are reports that some of Google's employees there were denied access to internal networks. A local staff that may be compromised may be one reason why Google would threaten to leave the Chinese market. Other technology companies operating in China should take note. These developments are hardly the end of this story. [MG]