Google in China
Google, Inc., first entered the Chinese market in early 2000 by creating a Chineselanguage
version of its home page. This strategy was part of a larger one for East Asia that
included the creation of search technology that understood the characters in Korean, Chinese,
and Japanese.50
Google’s approach was to maintain a Chinese-language version of Google.com that was
housed in the United States but that could handle search requests originating within China. In
this way, the technology was not subject to Chinese censorship laws as the facilities were not
within China’s physical boundaries, and Google did not need a license from the Chinese
government to operate its business. Usually, when users attempted to click on a banned site, a
full, unfiltered list was produced and they would be blocked by Chinese filters. Users were able
47 Chandler, “Inside the Great Firewall,” 149.
48 <www.rsf.org/print.php3?id_article=17936> (accessed June 9, 2006). 49 Chandler, “Inside the Great Firewall.”
50 Thompson, “Google’s China Problem.”
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to see the complete list of all the information pertaining to their search, including the information
that the Chinese government considered threatening.51
These search requests and corresponding search results all passed through one of nine
Chinese international gateway Internet service providers, which were monitored and filtered by
the Chinese government. In September 2002, Google.com was inaccessible for two weeks. When
reinstated, it was slow and temperamental for all Chinese users and completely inaccessible for
Chinese colleges and universities.52 According to Elliot Schrage, Google’s vice president of
Global Communications and Public Affairs, “The average time to download a Google Web page
was more than seven times slower than for Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine.”53
In 2004, Google realized that its approach in China was not sustainable. Google was
losing market share to Baidu, and others, including Yahoo! and Microsoft, were gaining ground
through their local presence. Google embarked on a one-year analysis of the Internet in China by
consulting both governmental and nongovernmental organizations, business partners, and
Chinese experts such as Xiao Qiang, an Internet scholar at the University of California–
Berkeley.54 Meanwhile, in June 2004, Google purchased a 2.6% stake in Baidu for $5 million.
Google announced two important appointments in 2005. First, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee left
Microsoft to head Google’s entry into China. Lee’s goal was “to make advanced technologies
accessible and useful to every user, as well as to be a part of the vibrant growth and innovation in
China today.” Then, Johnny Chou joined Lee in October as president of Sales and Business
Development, Greater China. Chou assisted in building sales and distribution as well as a
research and development center in China so Google would have the assets it needed to succeed.
In January 2006, Google announced the creation of Google.cn, which was located in
China and subject to Chinese filtering. This product was “faster and more reliable, and …
provide[d] more and better search results for all but a handful of politically sensitive subjects.”55
Google differentiated this product from those of its competitors by: (1) keeping personal
information outside China through Gmail, its Web-based email service, and Blogger, its personal
Web-blog-hosting service; (2) disclosing the presence of general filtering to users; and (3)
continuing a Chinese-language version of Google.com.56
51 Thompson, “Google’s China Problem.”
52 Thompson, “Google’s China Problem.”
53 Elliot Schrage, testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and
the Pacific and Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations (February 15, 2006): 5. 54 Dean and Delaney, “Limited Search.”
55 Schrage testimony.
56 Schrage testimony.
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Personal information
Although Google had decided to maintain Gmail and Blogger outside China, both
services required personal information from users that, if hosted on servers located inside China,
would be subject to requests for information by Chinese authorities. Recently, Yahoo! had
provided personal information to Chinese officials, leading to at least one arrest for the posting
of harmful materials. Microsoft had removed the postings of a journalist at the request of
Chinese authorities. By keeping Google’s email and blogging services outside Chinese