After Google threat, China defends its censorship

Google’s challenge to Beijing came as foreign businesses have voiced growing frustration at China’s business climate, even as Chinese economic growth outpaces the rest of the world.

 Google, the world’s top search engine, said it may shut its Chinese-language website and offices in China after a cyber-attack originating from China that also targeted other firms and human rights campaigners using its Gmail service. The company, which has struggled to compete with local market leader Baidu, said it would discuss with the Chinese government ways to offer an unfiltered search engine, or pull out.

But minister Wang Chen of China’s State Council Information Office said internet companies should help the one-party government steer the fast-changing society, which now has 360 million internet users, more than in any other country.

Wang did not mention Google, but his comments suggested little room for compromise in the feud over internet freedom. “Our country is at a crucial stage of reform and development, and this is a period of marked social conflicts,” Wang said in an interview that appeared on the Information Office’s web site. His comments largely echoed a speech he made in November.

On Thursday, the Information Office also named five Chinese web sites it said had not done enough to stamp out content banned as crude or pornographic. “Step up the clean-up,” it demanded on a statement on its web site.

Later on Thursday, the foreign ministry deflected Google’s allegation that it and dozens of other foreign companies were the targets of sophisticated hacking from within the country.

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