China Tells Google to Follow the Law

Without specifically addressing Google's claim that sophisticated cyber-attacks from within China attempted to gain access to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, the Chinese government says it welcomes foreign Internet businesses, as long they follow Chinese law.

The Chinese government had a relatively straightforward response Jan. 14 to Google's threat to stop censoring searches on its Chinese language site, Follow the law. Google's reversal of its China policy came after the search giant reported discovering evidence of cyber-attacks from within China aimed at gaining access to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.
Google also said 20 other companies from a wide range of businesses appeared to have suffered cyber-attacks from within China.
Reuters reported that Minister Wang Chen of China's State Council Information Office said in an interview, "Our country is at a crucial stage of reform and development, and this is a period of marked social conflicts. Properly guiding Internet opinion is a major measure for protecting Internet information security."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu added in another interview, "China welcomes international Internet businesses developing services in China according to the law. Chinese law proscribes any form of hacking activity."
Google's possible pullback from China comes at a time when the United States is attempting to persuade China to curb its Internet censorship policies as part of larger U.S. policy initiatives involving the intellectual property rights of companies doing business in China, where piracy rates are high.
Speaking in Beijing in November 2009, President Obama told Chinese students participating in an online town hall meeting, "I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of noncensorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States."
Following the cyber-attacks reported by Google, which shared its information with the U.S. government, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said, "We have been briefed by Google on these allegations, which raise very serious concerns and questions. We look to the Chinese government for an explanation."
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke took a slightly different tack, questioning the security risks of doing business with China.
"The recent cyber-intrusion that Google attributes to China is troubling to the U.S. government and American companies doing business in China," Locke said in a statement. "This incident should be equally troubling to the Chinese government. The administration encourages the government of China to work with Google and other U.S. companies to ensure a climate for secure commercial operations in the Chinese market."