Google has called on Western powers to bring down the great firewall of China, citing it as an integral part of international business. The plea is part of a policy brief that doesn’t just focus on China, the second largest economy in the world, but also on the other 40 or so governments–including Russia, Pakistan, Turkey and Vietnam–that “now engage in broad-scale restriction of online information.”
The Mountain View firm claims that thousands of American businesses are
affected by China’s hardline stance on information–as well the human
rights issue, it is seen as protectionist. Baidu, China’s rival to
Google, enjoys a 75% share of the search engine market, while Google
mops up just 23%.
The paper outlines the four ways in which states clamp down on free Internet use. As well as blocking access to sites such as Google (in China) or Facebook and YouTube (most recently in Pakistan), they create highly restrictive license requirements, suspend websites, and–the nastiest of all–creating an online climate of fear using surveillance and threats of legal action, making web users in these territories self-censor. As well as making sure that Internet regulation echoes the principles of the World Trade Organization’s services pact, Google urged Western powers to ensure that the rules of the next round of trade agreements reflect “new challenges of Internet trade.”
The announcement is as much a confession that the search engine giant has come out of its year-long battle with the Chinese authorities with nothing more than a flat forehead from banging its head against the anti-Google policy that has emanated from Beijing in recent years. It is, however, unlikely that the government will be able to do anything more than its current diplomatic efforts: the Chinese remain rigidly unmoved by Western attempts to influence both its human rights and economic policy.