Google in China: Countries Are Not Getting with the Program

December 29, 2014

Years ago, I pointed out that companies telling countries what to do might not be the path to a bright future in some circumstances. Countries have police, military, agencies, and rules. When an outsider suggests that the approach a country is taking is against the interests of a particular company, some of those in power have long memories.

I read “China’s Great Firewall Attacks Google Once Again, Blocks Any Form of Access to Gmail.” The headline is a bit misleading, probably in a quest to get lots of Google juice.

Firewalls do not attack. Firewalls are configured by people or other systems for a purpose. In this case, if the story is accurate, some human wants to prevent those within China’s datasphere from accessing Gmail. I am not sure this configuration is an “attack.” But with cyber warfare allegations flying around, some online publications just go with the semantic flow.

The write up asserts, one assumes correctly:

Gmail users in China are now finding that Google’s email service is totally inaccessible in the country. While Gmail’s website has been blocked in China since June, along with every other Google service, it had remained usable via IMAP/SMAP/POP in third-party email apps such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail. However, this newest crackdown seems to have shut that loophole, with Gmail’s IMAP, SMAP, and POP servers now fully blocked in China.

How does Google mend fences with China? One step forward on this long journey might be to take a look at what some companies are doing to tap into what seems to be a hefty market. Google is good at emulation, but in the case of China, criticism directed at Chinese authorities might be difficult to remove from the Chinese authorities’ index.

Google’s zippy approach to generating ad revenue generates lots of money. Money is often equated with influence in some countries. In China, there may be other more important factors in play.

For 2015, Google has some thinking to do if it wants to keep the China market in the Google tent or at least near the Google tent. On the other hand, too much dependence on China can lead to the YUM Brands problems. Once the money begins to flow, China’s consumer market can shift. Google has a need for ad revenue. What will Google do to pipe China cash into the Googleplex?

Good question, but it should have been asked a decade ago. In my experience, countries don’t change. I have a few examples at hand, but I won’t trot those out. Any TV news program provides ample illustrations of the disconnect between the way things are assumed to be and the way things are in nation states.

When I want to search information in China, you may need to seek alternatives to the Google.

Stephen E Arnold, December 29, 2014


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