Google eyes departure from China on April 10, report says

Beijing newspaper says search giant to reveal plans Monday; Google mum

A report today in the Chinese press says Google will announce on Monday that it plans to pull its business out of China on April 10.

The China Business News, a Beijing-based newspaper, is reporting that Google is just days away from putting a specific deadline on its departure from China. "I have received information saying that Google will leave China on April 10, but this information has not at present been confirmed by Google," the newspaper quoted an unidentified sales associate who works with the company as saying.

In an emailed response to Computerworld, a Google spokesman said, "We have repeatedly made clear that we are not going to comment on our discussions with the Chinese government."

This latest report comes just days after both Google and the Chinese government appeared to be leaking word that the search firm may soon shutter its operations there as negotiations between the two break down.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Chinese government had begun informing news Web sites in that country that Google's Chinese site is likely to close soon.

"I think Google is serious about this and I think their reputation would be damaged by capitulation," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "I thought this was pretty inevitable from the beginning, considering how both parties have made pretty firm statements. It doesn't mean that a new arrangement cannot be made in a year or two, but it will require at least the appearance of compromise on both sides."

Google first threatened to halt its operations in China after disclosing in January that an attack on its network from inside China was aimed at exposing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. At the time, Google also said it was reconsidering its willingness to censor search results of users in China as required by the government.

Google has since been negotiating with the Chinese government to find a way to continue operating in the country.

Google's continuing stand against China has been met mostly with support from industry watchers, who say it is helping the search company overcome the major hit in good will it's taken in recent years by ceding to China's censorship demands.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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