In an apparently coordinated effort, Chinese state media criticized Google on Saturday as having become a political tool--just days before the Web giant may announce its withdrawal from that country.
Google, which has been criticized by privacy and human rights advocates for censoring search results deemed objectionable by the Chinese government, announced in January that it intended to stop censoring search results and may stop doing business in the country entirely.
"Google's actions show that the world's biggest search engine company has abandoned its business principles and instead shows the world a face that is totally politicized," China Radio International wrote in an editorial. It continued:
American politicians may be glad to see Google being politicized but this is no doubt a tragedy for a famous multinational company which has gained its reputation and advantages by one innovation after another in the Internet field.
How can people believe that the company's search results are without any bias when it lacks independence as well as business ethics?
"It is ridiculous and arrogant for an American company to attempt to change China's laws. The country doesn't need a politicized Google or Google's politics," the editorial concluded.
China's official Xinhua News Agency followed a similar theme and accused Google of "politicizing itself," saying the Web giant was "groundlessly accusing the Chinese government of supporting hacker attack against it" and trying to force "China abandon the legal regulations on the Internet." Xinhua continued:
Regrettably, Google's recent behaviors show that the company not just aims at expanding business in China, but is playing an active role in exporting culture, value and ideas.
It is unfair for Google to impose its own value and yardsticks on Internet regulation to China, which has its own time-honored tradition, culture and value.
The English-language China Daily said in a commentary that Google's censorship complaint had become a "tool in the hands of vested interests abroad to attack China under the pretext of Internet freedom." According to China Daily:
China's regulation to censor the content that Google provides to Chinese Internet users has been interpreted as a breach to freedom in the virtual world. In some extreme cases, the vested interests have described the legitimate right of the Chinese government to regulate companies and control pornographic and related content as "spying" on its own people.
The magnitude of this absurdity is beyond comprehension and the motivated attacks, intolerable.
A Google representative declined to comment on the Chinese media's statements.
Tensions between Google and China have been mounting for months. Google, which has a significant share of the search market in China, identified China as the source of attacks in December on prominent U.S. Web properties and e-mail accounts belonging to human rights activists, though it has not revealed the specific people behind them. For its part, the Chinese government has denied any involvement.
Tensions between the two countries also escalated after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton formally denounced Internet censorship in a January speech. China, which has stated that companies doing business in that country must respect and adhere to its laws, responded by warning that the new U.S. stance could hurt relations between the two countries.
After months of negotiations over whether it can run Google.cn with or without restrictions, it seemed that Google was getting ready to make a decision in the near-term future. CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters at a media conference in Abu Dhabi earlier this month that a decision was coming "soon."
However, a Financial Times report earlier this month said the company was now "99.9 percent" certain that it would shut down its Chinese search engine. The Beijing-based China Business News on Thursday quoted an unidentified sales associate who works with the company as saying Google might announce on Monday that it will withdraw from China on April 10.