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China says Google row is unconnected to US relations

Google logo in Beijing on 20 January 2010
Google has one-third of the Chinese search market

China says its dispute with US search giant Google should not be linked to Beijing's relations with Washington.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei said the rift with the web firm should not be "over-interpreted", according to state news agency Xinhua.

Washington said it would protest to Beijing, after Google last week threatened to pull out of China.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to make a speech on internet freedom later on Thursday.

Awkward

Google said on 12 January that hackers had tried to infiltrate its software coding and the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, in a "highly sophisticated" attack.

The California-based firm - which launched in China in 2006 - said it would remain in China only if the government relaxed censorship.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government said Google and other foreign firms must obey the country's laws and traditions.

The same day, Google said it was postponing the launch of two mobile phones in China.

Analysts say a Google withdrawal would be awkward for Beijing because a number of Chinese and foreign businesses rely on its services, such as e-mail.

Another US internet giant, Yahoo, is also reported to have been targeted by hackers in China, although it has not given any official confirmation of this.

When Google launched google.cn four years ago, it was criticised for agreeing to Beijing's demands to make certain search results off-limits - such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Tibetan independence or Falun Gong.

Google currently holds about one-third of the Chinese search market, far behind Chinese rival Baidu, which has more than 60%.

China has more internet users - about 350 million - than any other country and provides a lucrative search engine market worth an estimated $1bn (£618m) last year.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Guardian.co.uk China hits back at US over internet censorship - 23 mins ago
Times Online China returns fire against US in Google-war - 1 hr ago
BusinessWeek Clinton Urges Tech Companies to Resist Censors, Condemn Attacks - 8 hrs ago
The Scotsman Clinton calls on China to probe Google threat - 9 hrs ago
NDTV China: Google case not linked to ties with US - 15 hrs ago



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