How do you say "Goodbye Google" in Chinese? Illegally, with flowers.

By Cindy M. Carter, published January 13, 2010, 6:32a.m.

In response to Google's threat to exit China, people have started leaving bouquets of flowers at the entrance to Google headquarters in Beijing's Haidian District/Silicon Alley. Some supporters were told by security guards that they were not allowed to leave flowers at the entrance without a permit, which has given rise to a new Chinese internet meme: 非法献花, or "illegal presentation of flowers".

New York Times: Google, Citing Attack, Threatens to Exit China

Wired: Google to Stop Censoring Search Results in China After Hack Attack

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# 1.   

Man, the Chinese meme-morph happens fast. I googled 非法献花, in quotes, and got over 4000 search results. This phrase has been around all of 14 hours. "草泥马" garnered 68.2 million results; "grass mud horse": 1.12 million. "河蟹" got 2.3 million, although some of these probably refer to actual crustaceans, rather than to the ironic "river crabs" that are a sound-alike for "harmony", which is Chinese government-speak for "censorship". I'm so damned tired of putting things in quotation marks...

 Cindy Carter, January 13, 2010, 1:10p.m.

# 2.   

I'm disappointed with Google's recent handling of its business in China. Publicly intimating that you are going to leave this market will provide zero leverage, lose support and respect for you in China, and -- in case you eventually don't do carry through on the implied threat -- make you a laughingstock.

For one, linking the efforts of China-based hackers to get into their offshore gmail servers with Google's continued China presence and other services is silly. "Leaving" China will not make them more or less vulnerable to Chinese efforts to access Internet-based passwords, e-mail addresses and e-mail communications to intimidate and harass their dissidents.

Google is a US-based company, and there is no reason whatsover to believe that the methods used by the US government to "listen in" on its perceived enemies are any less invasive. Are they going to throw a public fit, and move their corporate HQ out of US as a result?

I would much prefer to see Google hire people who can project their corporate values in China, deal with the heat it might generate, and realize that the Chinese government's policies -- like those of many governments worldwide -- often have little support among the people they purport to represent. Those employees a China-smart Google needs to recruit might mainly be Chinese, and then again they might not; but they need to replace the uptight anti-communist warriors they have in place now with managers who can co-exist and thrive in a complex marketplace.

In other words, I'm into "engagement" and turned off by big pronouncements about the "Evil Empire."

I look forward to Google staying in China in several areas, including, hopefully, Internet search. By leaving, they will only give up the market to copy-cats like Baidu, who will then get a tighter grip on what is fast becoming the world's biggest single Internet marketplace.

Google, don't be such a wimp!

 Bruce, January 13, 2010, 7:15p.m.

# 3.   

Chinese students have to memorize incredible strings of dates and emperors' names for exam time. Here's another useful set of dates, brought to us by The Guardian:

2009: China Internet Censorship Milestones

Somehow, I doubt these milestones will be on the pre-university gaokao this year...

 Bruce, January 14, 2010, 7:07p.m.

# 4.   

The '非法獻花’ idea seems to indicate that google's decision hasn't caused Google to 'lose support and respect in China. Comparing US efforts at monitoring perceived enemies with the Chinese government is ridiculous. When was the last time anyone in the US was jailed for writing essays urging the US leadership to respect the constitution? How do you know Google has not hired employees that are 'China-smart' and able to deal with a complex marketplace. If free-speech is one of your corporate values and censorship is not, how do you suggest they operate in China?

Jon, January 14, 2010, 11:30p.m.

# 5.   

@bruce: there is a difference between being "uptight anti-communist warriors" and refusing to waste your time in a country that censors your product, directly supports your competitor through subsidies and free media support, and spends its free time trying to accumulate evidence against human rights activists by hacking into your system.

I don't know anything about you, but you sound like the people at Baidu: upset because what Google is doing makes you look like a carpetbagger.

Juice, January 15, 2010, 1:43p.m.

# 6.   

We've all been in China long enough to read between the lines. There's something serious going on here, far beyond our access, far beyond our pay grades. No way in hell would a company like Google threaten to quit the Chinese market because of a few random China-based indie hackers, or a slight setback in their market share, or a piddling settlement with Chinese authors over book-scanning rights. The questions we should be asking ourselves: what would make a multi-billion dollar company quit a multi-billion dollar market at this juncture? What would scare them so badly that they'd be willing to work with the U.S. State Department and 20 other companies to resolve the conflict? Does this sound like a sensible reaction to a run-of-the-mill 5-mao dang hack to you?

Something happened to scare the shit out of Google, and make them wonder if doing business in China is worth it. I guarantee we'll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks/months.

 Cindy Carter, January 15, 2010, 3:19p.m.


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