Google (GOOG) threatened to cease operations in China, home to the world's largest Internet user base, after disclosing details of a massive cyber attack that "resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google." The Web giant also vowed to end its Chinese language search censorship, in a defiant rebuke aimed at China's communist regime.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Google said it would stop censoring its Chinese language search engine in light of "attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the Web" -- a stunning turnaround for a company that has defended China's censored search results against a barrage of criticism, even as it made the Middle Kingdom a key strategic beachhead.

Google's statement represents one of the most public challenges any American company has directed toward China's communist government since the country embarked on its meteoric growth path two decades ago. But Google's decision also reflects the search giant's increasing frustration as it has sought to make inroads into the Chinese market.

"Highly Sophisticated and Targeted Attack"

In a blog post Tuesday, Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said the company had discovered a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China."

But what the company found next was even more shocking: Google discovered that "a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists," a humiliating development for a company that prides itself on its "Don't be evil" credo.

Google said at least 20 other large companies, "including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors," were also the victims of the cyber attacks, which were apparently coordinated. "We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities," Drummond wrote.

Late Tuesday, software giant Adobe said that it, too, had been struck during the assault. "Adobe became aware on Jan. 2, 2010 of a computer security incident involving a sophisticated, coordinated attack against corporate network systems managed by Adobe and other companies," Adobe said. "At this time, we have no evidence to indicate that any sensitive information -- including customer, financial, employee or any other sensitive data -- has been compromised."

China Is a Central Focus for Multinationals

In response, Google said it will "review the feasibility of our business operations in China," which is obviously a massive potential market for the company. But while Google dominates search in the U.S., in China it remains a distant second to Baidu.com, which handles 62% of Web searches, versus 29% for Google, according to data from Analysys International.

Google's revenue from its Chinese operations is still a tiny part of its annual $22 billion revenue haul. But given the country's huge population -- not to mention 338 million Internet users -- and rapid growth, China is a central focus of virtually every major global corporation, making Google's decision all the more striking.

"Cyberwarfare has basically gone to the next level," James Mulvenon, an expert on Chinese cyber-crime, told The New York Times. "For Google to pull up stakes and basically pull out China, the attack must have been large in scope and very penetrating," Mulvenon said.

Incrementalism Fails

After four years of advocating an incremental path toward free speech in China, and adhering to China's Web censorship policy, which prohibits images of Tiananmen Square and other government-banned information, Google seems to have drawn a line in the sand, even at the expense of the company's own potentially lucrative business in that country.

"We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results," Drummond, Google's top policy lawyer, wrote. "At the time we made clear that 'we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.'"

Drummond said the search giant simply can't continue working in China under the present circumstances.

"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered -- combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the Web -- have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," Drummond wrote.

Google This: Free Speech

The search giant did not accuse the Chinese government of participating in the attacks. But in a statement received by SearchEngineLand, Google said "the environment in which we are operating in terms of an open Internet is not improving in China. That, combined with these attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered, mean that we're no longer comfortable self-censoring our search in China."

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the announcement was Google decision to stop censoring its Chinese language search engine, Google.cn.

"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," Drummond wrote. "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

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THO HUYNH

2011 predictions: China will face political problem in 2011, Tan Mao, New Cat, #8 Cat, the early 2011 or the late 2012, Nham Thin, #9 Dragon. Nham Thin, #9 Dragon will have something to do with #9 Horse, 1942 year birth of Hu Jin Tao. For example, the transition of Power from Mr. Hu Jin Tao to Mr. Xi in 2012, if the transition happen to be smooth, then China might save it self from political struggle of inner circle! If it is not smooth, then China will help turmoil problem for the next 5 years until 2015 to the early 2016. Chinese communist Party is in weak position; they are almost as the only one survival from the collapse of the former Soviet Union. North Korea is too poor to do anything good to save the last Communism State as China! Vietnam did not have a good government to change the luck for Communism! Cuba is too far and has been isolated in the South America, lately even confess what is wrong with communism! Finally, China is very much alone to face the West and the USA, Vietnamese said: “Manh Hð nan dich quan Ho”, it is even worse, the West and the USA are just not HO’s, but they are also Hð! Thus China is in very weak position to survival in the next five years; especially, Chinese communists will face critical time in the next five years: 2011 – 2015. However, China has built it credits during the open gate to China in 1972 until present, it is the economy that help China survive the new world order that Soviet Union cannot! Simply, the money has been pour in China for decades before the financial melt down in 08.08.2008, actually 09.13.2008, but I would use 08.08.08 for easy to remember! Chinese communists might survive better than I thought base on Money, Capitalism (**), and stupid economy, because Euro now is in recession and deficits from Greek to Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, finally it will hit England, France, may be even whole Europe; except Germany (***). . . (**) Beginning of notes******************** It is a paradox Capitalism would nurture Communism that strategy has been written in Chinese Communists’ Doctrine and Strategy that Chinese Communists have use very well to power struggle with the West and American and within themselves. (***) There is an explanation for Economic Situation in Euro; however, I would write in another article! **********End of Notes****************************** The West would not support the way to bring the Chinese Communists down, because Chinese Communists now is the only Banker for the West beside Germany, in mean time American is only supper power but also is in deficits! The next defense for Chinese Communist Party is its people. This defense can go either way for Chinese Communist Party, depend on how they treat and deal with its people . . . The last defense of Chinese Communist Party should be within itself; especially, with its inner circle, and its second level members . . . The only way Chinese communists would be flunk is they, themselves but nobody else, it becomes critical time for transition of power from 2011 to 2015 in China, like Gorbachev had flunk the whole Soviet Union in his revolution during 1989 – 1991 and still matter today for Russia! Wait and see the inner circle power struggle in China from now 12.5.2010 to 2015 and early 2016 . . . However, 1972 Gate to China has been open with Henry Kissinger and Nixon, after isolation for more than 20 years from the West and American! And they are survival for the last 1972-2010 = 38 years since Mao Shu Tong, Hoa Quoc Phong, Li Ping, Dang Xiao Ping, Giang Bo Thanh, Hu Jin Tao. There are up and down in 38 years Chinese Communists, but they are survival better than Former Soviet Union. The political struggle in next few years 2011 to 2015 will be tested with American power this time around! Do not surprise this time American might have its influence from inside of the inner circle; for example, Tienamon square with Ho Dao Bang in 1989. As I said before, I would say again “the USD got through the door of any country, it migh corrupt the system from within” and American know how to sneak in with powerful USD as they have done many time around the world. Besides, the Chinese American would be good for American game to deal with China, many other ways would be used beside the USD and Chinese American . . . Thhnfl@aol.com

December 05 2010 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply