Of the popular posts on the official Google blog last year, the second most visited was Google’s stance on searches in China. This entry discussed the difficult decision made by Google in December of 2009 when a series of cyber-attacks were launched on Google services. While Google frequently faces cyber-threats, these were different: they seemed to be targeting human rights activists in China. The end result for Google was a refusal to censor the results of their search engine (as they had been since they established Google.cn back in 2006), which would inevitably mean they couldn’t function in China.
The responses to this were controversial but mostly positive, with many seeing Google’s decision as standing up for human rights and freedom of speech. However, the halt to Chinese operations didn’t last. According to The Register, Google is already working on plans to re-enter the Chinese search market. This conclusion comes from statements made by Google’s CFO, Patrick Pichette, who told The Times that the shift away from China was never intended to be an act of complete abandonment, but that the challenges were seen as a roadblock. “China has 1.2 billion people,” said Pichette. “For Google to say, ‘We’re going to live on our mission but not serve 1.2 billion people’ — it just doesn’t work.” Plus, says Pichette, “China wants Google.”
Of course, this quickly opens a heated debate about the freedom of speech and current censorship from the Chinese government. On the one hand, working with a group broadly seen as restrictive and authoritarian can be seen as empowering that group. On the other hand, staying out of the market could hinder the ability of the Chinese people to find relevant, global information. As one example, Pichette cites the fact that there wouldn’t be a single result for “Nobel Peace Prize” anywhere on the current search engines in China.