Google to phase out China search partnerships

BEIJING/HONG KONG Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:30pm EDT

A man looks from behind a glass door at the Google Inc Shanghai office in Shanghai, March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

A man looks from behind a glass door at the Google Inc Shanghai office in Shanghai, March 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Two days after shutting its Chinese portal over censorship, Google Inc said it plans to phase out deals to provide filtered search services to other online or mobile firms in China.

It has already been shunned by at least one of those partner firms and was attacked by a state newspaper after pulling the plug on its mainland Chinese language portal It now reroutes searches to an unfiltered Hong Kong site.

The Google dispute, which involves cyber attacks as well as Internet censorship, is one of many thorny trade, financial, political and security issues that are roiling U.S.-China ties this year.

On Wednesday, Google's search services remained erratic across Beijing, frustrating users unsure about the future of its other services -- from maps to music -- over two months after its bombshell announcement it may quit China.

While Google is the world's top search engine, it held only an estimated 30 percent share of China's search market in 2009, compared with home-grown rival Baidu Inc's 60 percent.

Activists who gathered at Google's Beijing headquarters to show support appeared to be Google's only vocal allies in China.

Google said it is not providing direct access to censored searches, but will fulfil existing contracts with other firms.

"We have over a dozen syndication deals with partners in China. We obviously have contractual obligations to them, which we want to honor," a Singapore-based Google spokeswoman said.

"Over time, we will not be syndicating censored search to partners in China. But we will of course fulfil our existing contractual obligations," she added.

Google has already been taken off the popular portal, owned by Li Ka-shing, a Hong Kong billionaire who is one of the richest men in the world and has good ties to Beijing, according to Bloomberg.

Many of Google's often well-educated, professional fan-base in China, who use the company's software for both work and play, said they were already suffering some fallout on Wednesday with erratic service.

Several of Google's international search sites were failing to open, and when they could be accessed some users found that all searches, including for non-sensitive terms like "hello," were returning blank pages or error messages.

Businesses, university students and people in private homes reported intermittent problems on the main site, the site and

" is not currently being blocked, although it seems that some sensitive terms are. However, if you search for a sensitive term and trigger a government blockage, that may affect subsequent searches ... for a short period," Google said.


Around 100 people, including human rights lawyers and other activists, gathered at Google's Beijing base late on Tuesday -- the day when news of the pullout reached China -- to pay tribute.

After arguments with police, they approached the company's door to leave messages including "Google forever" and "Long live freedom!," said Teng Biao, a prominent activist who visited the building after a rights meeting.

"It will bring some inconvenience, but we really support this move by Google. They put freedom of expression ahead of business, and we hope that it will encourage more people to pay attention to human rights situation in China," Teng told Reuters by phone.

But Google's move has angered the government, and on Wednesday an official Communist Party newspaper accused it of colluding with U.S. spies, in China's latest blast at the company.

"Google is not a virgin when it comes to values. Its cooperation and collusion with the U.S. intelligence and security agencies is well-known," a front page commentary in the overseas edition of the People's Daily said.

"All this makes one wonder. Thinking about the United States' big efforts in recent years to engage in Internet war, perhaps this could be an exploratory pre-dawn battle," the paper said.

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Anshuman Daga)

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Comments (33)
blahhhhhh wrote:
Chinese think all white people are working for the CIA. When I first came to china 6 years ago and spoke chinese to friends of mine, they always asked me if i was a spy. Whenever chinese meet a white person who speaks good chinese, they say he “must be a spy.” That is because they are brainwashed by their fake history they learn in school. But yet, very few chinese know that China has the largest spy agency that is not watching a foreign country, but watching all of them. China also has many spies that act as students in western universities. They are surprised when I say this; sometimes even angry at me for “lying.” It is sad sometimes how little the chinese people know about their own country and how the world views them. Chinese newspapers have too much control over the chinese people’s minds.

Mar 23, 2010 12:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
PeterMMuer wrote:
The Chinese Government like all evil dictatorships makes claims that are so ridiculous that the civilized world reacts in shock and disbelief. Hopefully, the Chinese people will experience enough of the free world on the internet and world radio and want to revolt against these tyrants who endlessly spin lies.

Mar 23, 2010 12:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
regalbeagle wrote:
What are you scared of China? Funny how this westener gives the People from the “republic” more credit than the Chinese powers that be or should I say the soon to be powers that have been.

Mar 24, 2010 1:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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