The China vs Google Dust-Up, Live from London

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/24/2010 12:27:00 AM
On my walking route home from the LSE, I pass by the grandly named Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills on Victoria Street. Just this Monday, little did I know that China and the UK were conducting an "Internet Roundtable" inside. Naturally, the mention of China in the context of the Internet raises interesting questions. A few days ago, I discussed Google's new white paper where it argued that the "free flow of information" should become a free trade issue. (Our friends at the IELP offer more recent thoughts.) Let's just say I was not entirely convinced by Google.

It appears the Chinese used this event here in London as an opportunity to hit back at the "information imperialists" as some Chinese commentators so memorably dubbed the likes of Google. The main talking points remain the same: the Internet requires regulation, foreign firms a re welcome to conduct e-commerce in China as long as they follow PRC rules and regulations, etc. From still our favourite official publication, China Daily:
China will promote the opening up of cyberspace and welcome foreign firms as long as they abide by Chinese laws and respect traditional Chinese culture, said State Council Information Office Minister Wang Chen on Monday. On the sidelines of the Third China-UK Internet Roundtable, Wang told China Daily that Beijing is not afraid of the "mud" being thrown at China for its Internet administration. "We will do our best to explain," Wang said.

Wang's remarks come as Beijing faces mounting international accusations over its Internet administration and alleged hacker attacks. He said the government would strengthen Internet administration through law. "It's a common understanding that the Internet needs administration and governance," Wang said in his keynote speech to the roundtable, noting China is the "biggest victim of computer hacking".

Nearly 60 percent of Chinese Internet users, he said, were attacked by Trojan horse viruses or hackers in the first half of 2010. The country has about 439 million Internet users, or 39 percent of its population, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. "International society should fully understand and respect each country's situation and different considerations of online security, and regard each country's Internet development and administration with an objective, tolerant and realistic attitude," he said.

Only a few days ago, a US Congressional advisory group released a document alleging China Telecom diverted data from US military websites through its servers for 18 minutes on April 8.

In March, Google withdrew from Beijing, redirecting traffic to its service in Hong Kong. The move followed what the US-based Internet search engine claimed were Chinese hacker attacks, and its subsequent refusal to filter its search results as required by Chinese law.

In general, Wang told China Daily the Internet is "an engine of China's economic development" and welcomed foreign investment in its cyberspace. "The fact shows that foreign Internet companies have a bright future in China - as long as they abide by Chinese laws and respect traditional Chinese culture." China now has about 230 million bloggers and 277 million people surf the Internet on mobile phones, Wang said.

The scale of China's Internet market has reached 183 billion yuan ($27 billion), a year-on-year increase of nearly 32 percent, Wang said, adding that transaction volume of e-commerce has reached more than 3.6 trillion yuan. Wang said he is a fan of online shopping, and found it's more convenient and cheaper to buy books and music albums online.
The PRC's ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming addressed the BIS crowd, too. For more on China's policy towards the Internet, also see a white paper the PRC released last year.