Rebecca McKinnon, a China expert, seems hopeful that the great Google Web site switch that points people from Google.cn to a new Hong Kong-based version of the site will give Beijing enough cover to ignore that site's refusal to censor. It's technically a Hong Kong site, they might say, and look the other way. Google seems to be putting a lot of chips on that possibility. On the other hand, reports are coming in today that Google.cn's redirect to Google.com/hk is already being blocked in mainland China.
It's tempting to look at Google's latest move and say that the company is showing admirable (if belated) moxie in refusing to accept Chinese content laws. In China's case, the laws are often aimed at deflecting attention
from the failings of the Chinese government, from searches for
"Tiananmen" to information on the botched government response to the horrific
By that, no freedom-of-information-loving company can abide.
But more deserving of concern in this convoluted battle are the millions of Chinese people who will have to live with its outcome.
On that point, McKinnon also posts a missive from Chinese "netizens" who make the case that, as badly as the Chinese government has behaved here, Google has fallen down in informing Chinese citizens about what their dealings with the Chinese government have been and what their decisions will mean for Google-in-China's future. It's worth keeping in mind that Google's first shot against China was accusations of government-tied cyberattacks. There's more to this story than we yet know. And until we do, any move from here on is best viewed through the lens of its effect on the Chinese people.