Google ponders leaving China: Western internet firms have found a big market in China, but few opportunities

Posted in: Censorship at 22/03/2010 16:06

Barring an unlikely reconciliation, it is all but certain that by the end of March Google will withdraw from China, a place where it has succeeded commercially but failed to convince the authorities that information wants to be free. The expected departure comes after several attempts to hack its e-mail system, ever stronger censorship of its searches, legal complaints tied to its digitisation of books, and -- always a worrying sign in China -- growing vitriol in the state-controlled press.

If Google, which first raised the prospect of withdrawal in January, seems to have hesitated on the way to the door, there are 400m reasons why. That is the number of people in China, the government reckons, who use the internet. Increasingly, they are choosing it over other media, notably television, as a source of entertainment, information and opinion, say Max Magni and Yuval Atsmon of McKinsey, a consultancy. Over the past decade revenues from digital advertising have grown exponentially, admittedly from a tiny base, and the trend, predicts Mr Atsmon, will continue for some time.

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