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Google and the Chinese government are continuing to trade shots in the PR battle over net censorship. Earlier in the week, Google moved its Chinese search facility to Hong Kong where it claims it is legal under Chinese law to provide searches without censoring results.

In China:

The Chinese government slashed Google in an op-ed piece in China Daily. The op ed, under the name of Ding Yifan, included the assertion:

“Google’s withdrawal is not a purely commercial act. The incident has from the beginning been implicated in Washington’s political games with China.”

China Daily op ed here: “Google’s exit a deliberate plot”

In Washington:

Google’s Director of Public Policy, Alan Davidson, testified before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China yesterday. His remarks stressed the free trade and rule-of-law implications of China’s actions and ask the U.S. government to consider diplomatic and other actions against the dozens of countries in the world that restrict Internet access.

“We should continue to look for effective ways to address unfair foreign trade barriers in the online world: to use trade agreements, trade tools, and trade diplomacy to promote the free flow of information on the Internet,” he said.

Transcript of testimony here.

Google has nothing (else) to lose in all of this. The Chinese government made the search giant’s position in China untenable with the (assumed) hacking of dissidents’ Gmail accounts and intransigence on net censorship.

China’s human rights record is bad enough that it isn’t going to lose much face on that front. A huge number of businesses that want to get into the vast Chinese market probably don’t care about that anyway. Google, however, can paint China as business-hostile by making an issue of the country’s lack of rule of law, (alleged) government-sponsored hacking to steal proprietary information and arbitrary regulations.

Tom Kelchner