“China’s internet is open.”

(PRC government spokesperson responding to a question on Google’s announcement to stop filtering its Chinese search engine, citing concerted hacker attacks on the e-mail accounts of political dissidents)

Will Google leave China? Probably so. After the online giant challenged the Chinese government by announcing its intention to stop abiding by the government censorship requirements for google.cn, few expect the offline giant (China, that is) to flinch.

For Google, there must be some relief to end its faustian deal with the Chinese gerontocracy: operating inside the People’s Republic of China was only possible if it agreed to censor the results of its search engine for anti-communist and anti-social content, for example queries for ‘Tiananmen massacre’, ‘Tibetan independence’, ‘underground church’ and, ironically, ‘blocking’.

If Google goes, it will be the last in a long line of internet biggies to fall victim to the Great Firewall of China, others being social websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (all are completely inaccessible in the PRC; others, like Wikipedia, are viewable, but with large sections blacked out).

This map visualises some of the content blocked in China, with specific search terms shown in red (and forming the shape of the PRC), and blocked or partially blocked websites shown in black.

Many thanks to Guido Smit for suggesting this map, found here on the lovely website Information Is Beautiful.