Thursday, January 14, 2010


As you may have heard, in the last few days, Google has been having some domestic issues with Big Mama China. Google suggests that it was infiltrated by Chinese government hackers in an attempt to discover email addresses of Chinese human rights advocates. They said the attack also resulted in some unspecified "intellectual property" being stolen.

The result is that the company may be closing down their Chinese version of Google, which is, unless China allows them to put up uncensored search results. I can't see how that would happen.

Anyway, it would really suck for me because I use Chinese Google all the time for translation work. So in premature memoriam of, I now offer a little bit of Chinese googling trivia.

  • Mystery! Today's (Jan. 14, 2010) Google doodle (where they change the logo into a picture) on is the Four Great Inventions (四大发明, si4 da4 fa1 ming2). Usually there is some holiday or birthday or something to warrant a doodle. But why is this here? The Four Great Inventions (in the Chinese context) are Paper (造纸术 zao4 zhi3 shu4), the Compass (指南针 zhi3 nan2 zhen4), Gunpowder (火药 huo3 yao4), and Movable Type Printing (活字印刷术, huo3 zi4 yin1 shua1 shu4). Yes, Gutenberg, the Chinese did that first, too. So the question is: Why? Theories as to what they are trying to say:

1) The Internet (or Google) is a great invention, too, so don't make us leave you, China.
2) The letters of the logo that are altered are "Go" and "le." This could be a very strange Chinglishy way of saying "we are going," ie, "go 了" (了 (le) is just a modifier of the verb). Or, it could be a phonetic way of saying "Enough!" (够了, gou4 le).
3) It is a way of saying "We love China! It is soo smart!" in a last ditch effort to bribe the Central Government with Google doodles.

  • Google in Chinese is 谷歌 (gu3 ge1), which means "Valley Song." But mostly it is just phoeneticization of "Google."
  • Censorship? I wanted to test how censored the Chinese Google is. So I plugged in the phrase 六四事件 (liu4 si4 shi4 jian4) into both the mainland and the Taiwanese version of Google. 六四事件 is literally the "6-4 Incident," or June 4 Incident, meaning the Tian'anmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989. The mainland version actually came back with about 3 million results. But the top hit is an interview with Premier Zhu Rongji, who says that "I think that China now has enough democracy, so something like (the June 4 Incident) could not happen again."

    A Taiwan Google ( search of the same term, on the other hand, produces more than 11 million results. The top one? The Chinese Wikipedia entry for the Tian'anmen Incident. Talk about freedom of speech. Plus it shows YouTube videos and all kinds of stuff about the massacre. So yes, the mainland version is definitely censored. To be fair, the version of the results page does say at the bottom: "Due to local government laws and regulations, some search results are not displayed."