Google Inc. is committed to doing business in China despite criticism the company has faced for abiding by Chinese government censorship restrictions, co-founder Sergey Brin said this week.
On Tuesday, after a session with several U.S. senators to discuss telecommunications legislation, Brin made comments that prompted some journalists to speculate Google intended to change or eliminate its operations in China.
In fact, he reiterated Google's intention to move ahead with its google.cn site -- a version of the leading Internet search engine that censors thousands of sites according to Chinese standards -- as well as its global google.com site.
Brin told a small group of invited journalists: I think it's perfectly reasonable to do something different. Say, OK, let's stand by the principle against censorship and we won't actually operate there.
But he then added: That's an alternative path. It's not the one we've chosen to take right now.
Brin, who serves as a co-president of Google, said users in China have two options -- slower speed search which is uncensored at http://www.google.com, or faster search, with limits set by Chinese authorities at http://www.google.cn/.
If you are a normal Chinese user and you want to use Google, just go to google.com and you actually won't get good service. Eventually you will go to google.cn, Brin said.
.COM OR .CN?
The vast majority of Web users inside China -- 99 percent, he said -- use Google.com rather than Google.cn at this time.
Chinese Internet service providers take steps to ensure that the uncensored google.com site does not work as intended, Brin said. The google.cn censored site would presumably not be slowed by Chinese blocking tactics.
We sort of committed to try out this path and we are still actually trying to get it to work, Brin said.
A Google spokeswoman said the company had no further comment on Brin's remarks.
Brin's comments echoed statements by Elliot Schrage, Google's vice president of public affairs, before a U.S. Congressional Human Right committee in Washington last February.
We think we have made a reasonable decision, though we cannot be sure it will ultimately be proven to be the best one, Schrage said at the time. We've begun a process that we hope will better serve our Chinese users.
Schrage said the company hoped to add additional services, if circumstances permitted, beyond search services and Google News.
As part of its plan announced in January to begin operating directly in China, Google declined to offer e-mail, blogging or chat rooms, services where free-wheeling discussion could put the company in hot water with the Chinese authorities.
At a regular news briefing in Beijing on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the Chinese government viewed Google's involvement in the country positively.
Any trade and commercial cooperation should be carried out within the framework of laws. We hope the relevant companies, when undertaking business operations, can abide by Chinese laws and regulations, Liu said.