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In China, Mixed Reaction To Google's Decision

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In China, Mixed Reaction To Google's Decision

Asia

In China, Mixed Reaction To Google's Decision

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's business news starts with Google's bold move in China.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Google has made good on its threat to stop filtering its search engine in China. Yesterday, Google began redirecting Chinese users to a search service in Hong Kong - in effect, lifting censorship. The move defies Chinese government regulations and could mean the search engine's exit from one of the world's most promising markets.

NPR's Louisa Lim reports on the reaction from the streets of Shanghai.

LOUISA LIM: Internet users here are calling it G-Day, the moment of reckoning, when Google finally turned words into actions. In the early hours of the morning here, Google announced it was shutting its Chinese Web site and rerouting searches to Hong Kong. Some netizens saluted its bravery. Others aren't so sure.

Professor DENG JIANGUO (New Media, Fudan University): Maybe its just a gesture for Google to still have the market and don't lose face.

LIM: Deng Jianguo is an associate professor researching new media at Fudan University. He has little sympathy for Google, which he says should have followed Chinese law.

Prof. JIANGUO: Google has overestimated its importance to Chinese netizens here. As a researcher and an English-speaking person, I use Google English a lot. But for most Chinese netizens, they don't care about Google Chinese version.

LIM: It's true that Google's Chinese-language search engine is far behind market leader Baidu, but Google still has around 36 percent of the market. The official response from China was angry, with this statement on the noon news.

Unidentified Woman: (Through translator) Google has violated the written promise it made on entering the Chinese market. It is totally wrong in halting the filtering of its search provider and in making aspersions and accusations towards China about hacking attacks.

LIM: So how does this new arrangement work? Well, if I go to Google's Chinese-language search engine...

(Soundbite of typing)

LIM: ...I'm redirected to their Hong Kong site. And if I type in sensitive term - now let's try Tiananmen student movement...

(Soundbite of typing)

LIM: ...in Chinese, and then I do a search, I still get a message saying the Web page cannot be displayed. And that's because here in China, the filters that stop you from viewing those sites are still in place.

Mr. SHUEN CHI(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: The new setup isn't very convenient, says student Shuen Chi, complaining that searches through the Hong Kong Web site are clumsier. Meanwhile, psychology student Katherine Liu says academics here depend on Google.

Ms. KATHERINE LIU (Student): If Google moves to Hong Kong, but it is still available, I think it will not affect our lives. But if we have difficulties in connecting it, it will have great effect on our daily life.

LIM: The unanswered question is what, if anything, happens next. At the moment, Google's research and development center is still in China. The Gmail service is still operating here, as well a free music download service that Google runs with a Chinese partner. It's not yet clear whether these will continue to operate, or if these too may end up being shuttered, as the cost of Google's stand against Chinese censorship.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.

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