China Denies Google’s Hacking Charge

by Jordan Richardson on June 7, 2011

According to China’s official Communist Party newspaper, Google has become a “political tool” for the express purpose of tarnishing the otherwise immaculate reputation of the Chinese government. The People’s Daily, the leading newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, warned that Google’s charges against Chinese hackers were little more than political games.

“Many international bystanders believe that Google’s charge is thickly tainted with political colors, and one can’t dismiss the fact that Google is taking advantage and provoking new Sino-American Internet security disputes with sinister intentions,” the article stated. “Today’s Google really makes one wring one’s hands. What was once a model of leading Internet innovation has now become a political tool for slandering other countries.”

The front-page editorial went on to reject Google’s charge that hackers from China had targeted Gmail and some influential users, warning that the company’s credibility could be harmed in the process. “Once the international winds change,” the editorial, titled “Google, What Do You Want?,” said, “Google might become a political sacrifice and might be discarded by the market.”

Google didn’t have an official comment on the article.

Last Wednesday, Google claimed to have discovered an effort originating in Jinan, a coastal city in eastern China’s Shandong Province. The targets were hundreds of Gmail account holders, including several American government officials, political activists and the like. The allegations were similar to Google’s charges back in January when hackers in the same city were blamed for widespread attacks on the corporation’s systems.

Google has had a historically uneasy relationship with China, dating back to quibbling over censorship of its search results. The company partly pulled out of the country over that brouhaha. Google saw its market share in China drop considerably after that, with rival Baidu Inc. grabbing even more market share.

No particular group has claimed credit for the attempted attacks on Google this time around. Some say that may be interesting because of the recent tendency of hacker groups to do a proverbial victory dance after a successful attack (see LulzSec). This could indicate that the attacks came from a deeper, more serious source. And, as Google points out, Jinan is home to an intelligence unit of the People’s Liberation Army.

With the United States government warning over the weekend that hacker attacks could be considered acts of war, China has to be taking that into consideration whether it’s responsible for the Google attacks or not. This somewhat aggressive denial from the official newspaper is clearly a “political tool” all its own, playing the role of the bellicose backpedaler bravely but carefully.

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