China Power

Leaky Firewall

China’s censorship is apparently having some unintended consequences.

I’ve been curious how Google’s decision to stop censoring search results has been affecting the service for users on the mainland. I mentioned a couple of days ago the mixed responses I was reading on blogs and message boards, so I asked a correspondent over there now who told me at the moment at least it’s just a case of ‘inconvenience’

He told me:

‘I have VPN (virtual private network) so I can “climb over the wall” (the so-called Great Firewall erected by Chinese authorities) to access unfiltered Google overseas. But that takes several seconds, which is an eon in internet time. If I don’t use VPN, Google searches for “falun gong” leads to a “page was reset” error. Then “punishment” for a short while of not being able to do any other Google searches.’

He added, though, that Gmail still worked fine.

Interestingly, though, it seems that some internal Chinese censorship is actually leaking outside the Great Firewall because some networks route traffic through servers inside China. It’s a point made on the ars technica site yesterday.

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One last note on the Google fallout—it seems that the company is already being dropped by some partners hoping to stay competitive in the China market. According to Bloomberg, Motorola is no longer including Google’s search engine in its Zhishang device shipped to China Telecom Corp.

One analyst quoted in the piece gave this frank assessment:

‘“If you were partnering with Google in China, your business plans have just fallen apart,” said Bertram Lai, head of research at CIMB-GK Securities in Hong Kong. “You need to scramble and find new partners.”’