China's state media has lashed out at Google, accusing the internet search giant of seeking to impose a foreign political agenda on China amid speculation that the company is preparing to make an announcement on the future of its business in China.
In a flurry of editorials and opinion columns over the weekend, critics labelled as "ridiculous" the California-based firm's moves to push China to change its censorship regulations, accusing the firm of "groundlessly accusing the Chinese government" of supporting hacker attacks.
Others accused the firm of trying to impose its own culture, values and ideas on China.
The comments came amid growing speculation that Google will make an announcement, possibly as early as Monday, on whether or not it intends to pull out of China altogether.
In January Google stunned many in the online world when it said it would no longer censor its search results in China, as required by Chinese law, and was considering shutting down its China operations entirely.
The statement came after the company said it had uncovered evidence of sophisticated cyber attacks against its own servers and the email accounts used by Chinese activists.
But responding to Google's threats to pull out of China, the editorials in state media said the company should understand the need to comply with laws in countries where it does business.
A commentary carried by China's official Xinhua news agency accused the company of harbouring a political agenda.
"Whether [Google] leaves or not, the Chinese government will keep its internet regulation principles unchanged," the commentary said.
|Google hsa said it is reviewing the future of its China operations [GALLO/GETTY]
"One company's ambition to change China's internet rules and legal system will only prove to be ridiculous."
The Xinhua editorial said it was unfair for Google "to impose its own values and
yardsticks on internet regulation to China, which has its own time-honoured tradition, culture and values".
"In fact, no country allows unrestricted flow on the internet of pornographic, violent, gambling or superstitious content, or content on government subversion, ethnic separatism, religious extremism, racialism, terrorism and anti-foreign feelings," it added.
The Xinhua commentary went on to allege that that search giant had ties to US intelligence, saying that "search histories on Google will be kept and used by the American intelligence agencies."
Google has said it will pull out of China unless it is able to reach agreement with Chinese authorities ending the requirement to censor its search results.
"Google's relations with the US government cannot be deeper"
China Daily editorial
Google executives have said the company has begun talks with Chinese officials, although several comments in recent weeks from the Chinese side appear to deny that any contact has been made.
China encourages internet use for education and business but blocks access to material deemed politically or socially undesirable, including websites abroad run by human rights and pro-democracy activists.
Chinese officials have insisted that all companies must obey China's laws, appearing to leave few options other than closing Google's China service, Google.cn, which has about 35 per cent of China's search market.
Since Google's initial announcement, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has criticised China's online censorship of cyberspace, drawing a sharp rebuke from Beijing over what it called "information imperialism".
In an editorial on Saturday the China Daily said Google would lose its credibility with the world's largest internet market – a population of nearly 400 million users – if it links its departure from the country to political issues.
"Chinese netizens did not expect the Google issue to snowball into a political minefield and become a tool in the hands of vested interests abroad to attack China under the pretext of internet freedom," said the editorial.
The China Daily said it was "ridiculous and arrogant" for a US company to try to change Chinese laws and suggested that Google was acting in Washington's interests.
"Google's relations with the US government cannot be deeper," the article said.
"How can people believe that the company's search results are without any bias when it lacks independence as well as business ethics?"
On its website, China Radio International accused Google of encroaching on the country's sovereignty.
"There has only been one such case in over 100 years of colonialism and semi-colonialism; that of the British East India Company, which wanted to control India's sovereignty," the station said.
"Perhaps if Google withdraws from the Chinese market it will have negative consequences for certain internet users but it will be Google that loses the most."
Google however has insisted that its threat to quit China was a decision taken entirely independently.
"The decision to go public about the attacks and the decision to review our business in China was entirely Google's and Google's alone," Jessica Powell, a Google spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.
Although it is the global leader in online search, Google operates at a distant second place to Baidu Inc, the leading Chinese search engine, which has benefitted from the dispute.
Baidu's shares have surged more than 44 per cent since Google's announcement that it may quit China, while Google's stock has fallen roughly 6.3 per cent.