BEIJING - Google's decision to stop censoring its Chinese search engine and redirect mainland users to its servers in Hong Kong was tantamount to pushing itself into a corner and ruining its image and interests, world media and experts say.
"If Google had hoped to rally rivals to its cause, it failed. If Google was planning to embarrass China by whipping up a global debate on Internet freedom, it failed," the Financial Times wrote in an article published Monday.
China trade economist Derek Scissors of the US Heritage Foundation called Google's move to Hong Kong "pretty close to a complete exit" that will provoke Beijing and puts Google outside the firewall with regard to advertisers and other partners.
Russian newspaper Vedomosti said Google has completely burned all of its bridges in China behind it and is unlikely to ever r eturn to the Chinese market.
Google, the world's top search engine, held only an estimated 30 percent share of China's search market in 2009, compared with home-grown rival Baidu Inc's 60 percent. Official statistics put the number of netizens in China at 384 million by the end of 2009.
Michel Riguidel, head of the Department of Computer Science and Networks at Telecom Paris Tech, said all companies pay great attention to building their own images.
Google claimed that its image is based on freedom, information exchange and respecting human rights, but the fact is that it absorbs large amounts of personal information and does research on the information without getting agreements from web users, Riguidel said.
Izumi Harada, chief fellow of the Crisis and Risk Management Society of Japan, told Xinhua that there is no question that multinational companies should follow local laws while running their businesses in other countries.
Google has breached the commitment to observe Chinese laws and regulations that it made when entering China (four years ago), he said.
Jesse Wright, a leading expert of Institute Internet, told a Russian radio station that Google has been working in China since 2005 and knows the requirements of Chinese law.
"Compliance with the requirements of the Chinese was a condition of work in this market," Wright said. "So, trying to force China to reconsider its own censorship requirements - be it Google or others - it seems to me untenable."
Alexey Basov, CEO and co-founder of Begun, Russia's largest contextual ad service, said if Google quits the Chinese market, it will be a major strategic loss for the company.
At about 3 am Tuesday Beijing time, Google's chief legal officer David Drummond made the "stop censoring" announcement in a blog post, saying "users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored searches in simplified Chinese."
In reaction, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a routine media briefing that: "The Google case is just a business case and will not undermine China-US relations unless someone politicizes the issue."