After several days when Gmail accounts could not be accessed in the Chinese mainland, speculation has mounted as to the reason. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Monday she was not aware of the situation and Google Inc did not offer any explanation.
Gmail is considered by some as the most powerful e-mail system of its kind. It boasts a large number of users in China, particularly those who have frequent overseas contacts. Many people use Gmail alongside other e-mail services.
Google has maintained a delicate relationship with China since it withdrew from the Chinese mainland in 2010. Earlier this month, China's top Internet regulator Lu Wei visited Google's US headquarters and showed openness by welcoming Google and other Internet giants to enter the Chinese market.
Globally, Google has run into conflicts with authorities constantly with issues similar to those it has with the Chinese government. China welcomes the company to do business on the prerequisite that it obeys Chinese law; however, Google values more its reluctance to be restricted by Chinese law, resulting in conflict.
China's Internet market has ballooned in recent years. US Internet giants such as Facebook have signaled strong interest to enter the Chinese market, and Google's relationship with the Chinese government has been a target of speculation from time to time.
The problems with Gmail access this time may be caused by the China side, by Google itself or a combination of the two. But Western media pointed the finger at Chinese authorities immediately, accusing them of strengthening its cyber censorship. This is far too simple a hypothesis. It should be noted that Google voluntarily quit the mainland market in 2010. The issue at heart is to what extent Google is willing to obey Chinese law, on which China's attitude is steadfast.
As is widely known, China has to keep strengthening its national security while it opens up to the West. We cannot avoid issues like Internet and ideological security when dealing with large IT companies from the West. But China has never yielded to such vigilance. It is always firm in its desire to further open up and honestly hopes to strike a balance between development and security.
In this sense, it's dubious that China "blocked" Gmail simply over security concerns. Since both Google and China haven't given an explanation and meanwhile Gmail is a technically complex system, there may be some puzzling reasons behind the incident.
If the China side indeed blocked Gmail, the decision must have been prompted by newly emerged security reasons. If that is the case, Gmail users need to accept the reality of Gmail being suspended in China. But we hope it is not the case.
We only need to have faith that China has its own logic in terms of Internet policy and it is made and runs in accordance with the country's fundamental interests. Besides, there are interactions between China and the US, and between Google and China. We don't want to be shut off, as it obviously doesn't serve our own interests.