Posts tagged china
Google has finally closed down its censored Google.cn search engine. As we reported, the company announced in a January 12 blog post that following a series of intrusions into its systems by Chinese hackers, it would no longer cooperate with the Chinese government’s mandate that Google censor its Chinese site to remove results the government didn’t approve of, from the words “freedom” and “democracy” to the Tiananmen Square protests, Dalai Lama, and more. Over the last two months, the company has been in negotiations with the Chinese government, which is, unsurprisingly, not willing to budge.
Google just put up another blog post announcing that it has shut down Google.cn and is redirecting users to a simplified Chinese (the language used on the mainland) version of Google.com.hk (the Hong Kong site, normally uses the traditional Chinese script). As we mentioned in January, there is much speculation as to the reasoning behind Google’s decision. After all, while the company does claim “don’t be evil” as a motto, it’s been censoring Chinese search results for nearly four years now, so why the sudden change of heart?
Read on to find out.
Caing has an interesting article exploring BYD, which is one of China’s fastest-growing manufacturers and has attracted major investments from Warren Buffett (who in 2008 bought a 10% stake in the firm and upped it in August 2009). The firm, whose name stands for “Build Your Dreams,” was founded as a battery and electronics manufacturer in 1995 and in 2002 decided to expand into the automotive sector. While many small Chinese manufacturers are known for designs “inspired” by existing products, BYD has made a science out of copying, cost-reduction, and mass production of batteries, electronics, and cars. In the process, its founder, Wang Chuanfu, has become the richest man in China, with a net worth of $5.1 billion.
In an age of almost fully-mechanized manufacturing, BYD instead uses large, 18th-century style workshops of low-wage employees (of which it has over 130,000), minimizing the use of expensive equipment. The firm’s cars are mostly virtually-identical copies of Toyota models, but sold at half the price. BYD has become quite a success story, becoming the world’s largest supplier of Ni-Cd batteries and the second-largest supplier of Li-Ion batteries, and the firm is applying its reverse engineering experience to an ever-widening array of products. Whether the company’s blatant disregard for intellectual property will allow it to grow outside the Chinese domestic market is questionable. For now, though, even competitors are highly impressed– as one former employee of Chery Auto (another Chinese automaker) shared:
“BYD’s excellent quality imitation cars are tied to the fact that the company has accumulated experience in strict product control from its earlier practices in batteries and the IT sector,” the Chery source said. ”Maybe it’s right. They very well may become China’s flagship auto manufacturer.”
Some examples of BYD’s automotive reverse-engineering, starting with the company’s logo:
Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, co-creator of the Chumby smart alarm clock, posted an interesting exploration of the underside of MicroSD memory card production in China. Huang came across a batch of questionable memory cards purchased directly from Kingston itself and decided to investigate the issue. Turns out the chips were produced in a “ghost shift”– factory workers return to the facility after hours and use spare or rejected material to create cheap but sub-par memory chips, wrap them up in authentic retail packaging, and sell them in the gray market. Huang watched as mom-and-pop shops packaged and sold similar bogus chips, but the most interesting aspect is of course that his original batch had come from Kingston itself.
Kingston is a major memory brand in places like the US, but it lacks production facilities of its own, instead buying “A- grade” chips from Sandisk/Toshiba and Samsung. While the chips generally work fine, they have enough defects that they might normally be rejected by the chipmaker. As a result, manufacturers are happy to sell them at cheaper rates to companies like Kingston, which then pass on some of the savings to the consumer– but in the case of Kingston, it comes at some risk to their brand name.
A few hours ago, Google made a startling announcement that the company has decided to stop filtering search results on Google.cn. Google indicated, through a post on the official Google blog by David Drummond, the firm’s chief legal officer, that the shift came after it discovered a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” on its servers that aimed to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
While the carefully-worded post did not directly accuse the Chinese government of orchestrating the attacks, Google said that particularly in light of the country’s attempts over the last year to “further limit free speech on the web,” it would “review the feasibility of our business operations in China.” Drummond wrote that over the next few weeks, the company will discuss with the Chinese government how it “could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all” but recognizes that it may have to shut down Google.cn.
Google’s seemingly bold step has garnered praise from numerous policy groups, though Google’s precise motivations are still somewhat indeterminate. Some believe the firm may have been willing to censor search results as long as it thought the Chinese market could provide growth in advertising revenues, and that this could be motivated by a business decision to close Google.cn. Or maybe Google is actually trying to live up to its ideal of “doing no evil.”