China: We Are in Talks With Google. Also, We Are Not in Talks With Google.
Like so many of its services, Google’s so-called “New Approach to China” appears to be in perpetual beta. Though Google has said repeatedly that it is in discussions with Chinese officials about its plans to end censorship of search results in the country, the Chinese government claims Google hasn’t yet initiated talks.
Over the weekend, Vice Minister Miao Wei of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told Xinhua, the state-run news agency, that “[Google] never informed the ministry that it was planning to withdraw from China, [nor has it] filed reports over alleged Internet regulation and cyberattacks to the ministry or requests for negotiations.”
Odd to hear, considering Google’s rather definitive Jan. 12 announcement that it will stop censoring its Chinese search site and may withdraw from the country altogether. More so given the comments of another MIIT minister just a day earlier. On Friday, Li Yizhong told reporters attending the National People’s Congress that the ministry is in talks with Google about its plans to operate an unfiltered search engine in China.
Sources close to the situation confirm that this is the case: Google (GOOG) has been in private talks with Beijing, though not formally. Of course, though nearly two months have passed since Google first said it would stop censoring search results in China, queries to Google.cn continue to return censored results.
As I noted here a month ago, “we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results” is about as definitive a statement as they come. Is Google going to follow through or not? Why all the mystery and dawdling?
Could it be that Google is now backing off its initial threat? Because, as Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz suggested last week, that threat seems increasingly empty the longer this thing drags out. “It looked to me like it was more of a statement than an action,” she told CNBC. “If they wanted to pull out, they should have pulled out.”
Reached for comment, Google offered none beyond this now typical refrain: “Thanks for reaching out, but as you might suspect, we will not be commenting on any discussions with the Chinese Government.”
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