EXCLUSIVE: Google’s Forced Exit From China Plotted by Bo Xilai and Security Boss Zhou Yongkang

April 22, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Flowers on the Google logo at its China headquarters in 2010
A card, a letter and flowers are placed on the Google logo at its China headquarters building in Beijing, China, on March 23, 2010, the day Google announced its intention to close its Chinese-language search engine in mainland China. A new report documents how Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai conspired with the Chinese search engine Baidu to use the Internet to attack their opponents. The price Zhou and Bo were willing to pay: Get Google out of China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

When Google left mainland China, it was pushed out. The search engine giant was a casualty of the struggle over succession in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to exclusive information provided by a high-ranking government official in Beijing. This information is corroborated by a January 2010 Beijing U.S. embassy cable, marked “secret,” released by Wikileaks.

The campaign against Google was launched in March, 2009 at the Honglou Hotel in Chongqing. The annual National People’s Congress meetings were taking place at that time.

Bo Xilai, then the Party chief in the province-level city of Chongqing in central-western China, had arranged a meeting with Li Yanhong, the chairman of the Chinese search engine Baidu, through Baidu’s regional manager in Chongqing, Jiang Zhi.

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Bo brought up helping Baidu fight off its main competitor, Google, and gain a monopoly in the Chinese-language search engine market. Jiang Zhi recalled that Li bowed to Bo right on the spot.

Bo was willing to promise that Google would be thrust out of China, but a quid quo pro was involved. Bo needed Baidu to cooperate with Chongqing officials and lift the censorship on articles criticizing Party head Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and presumptive next Party head Xi Jinping. The articles would be published on websites outside China favoring former Party head Jiang Zemin.

The articles targeting Xi were especially important, Bo said. Li agreed.

Factional Struggle

Bo Xilai is a member of the CCP faction loyal to Jiang Zemin. That faction has been locked in a ten-year-long struggle with the faction headed by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao for dominance in the CCP.

Other leading members of Jiang’s faction include: Zeng Qinghong, the head of the National People’s Congress and the owner of the Honglou Hotel where Bo met Li; Zhou Yongkang, the head of the powerful Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC), which controls nearly all aspects of law enforcement in China; and Luo Gan, the head of the PLAC immediately prior to Zhou.

The members of Jiang’s faction are tied together by their guilt for crimes committed against Falun Gong practitioners during the persecution Jiang Zemin began in July, 1999. According to analysts, the power struggle with Hu and Wen has been driven by the fear of the members of the Jiang faction that they will be held accountable for their crimes.

After Chongqing’s deputy mayor and former police chief Wang Lijun fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he blew open a conspiracy by Jiang’s faction to oust Xi Jinping after he became Party leader.

Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon reported a U.S. government official as saying that Wang provided information that Bo and Zhou planned to upset the smooth transition from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping. The dissident website Boxun reported that Bo and Zhou planned a coup after Xi took power.

If Bo became head of the CCP, that would solve the problem facing the Jiang faction. Bo, who has been sued 13 times outside China for crimes against humanity and genocide in connection with atrocities committed against Falun Gong practitioners, could never hold accountable other Party members for such crimes.

Bo and Zhou joined forces in the campaign against Google, in an effort to use information warfare to damage Xi and his allies.

Pornography Accusations

After the meeting between Bo and Li in March, careful preparations were laid. The first attempt to drive Google out involved accusations that the search engine provided access to pornography.

On June 18, 2009, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center, an organization with close ties to Baidu, released an article titled Strongly Condemn the Sexually Provocative and Indecent Information Spread by Google.

The article criticizes Google China for containing “a large amount of pornographic and indecent information” and supposedly causing “pornographic content from outside China to spread inside our country through Google.”

On the same afternoon, Zhou Yongkang directed the Public Security Bureau to meet with the director of Google’s China business. At the meeting, the claim that Google was responsible for the circulation of pornography on China’s Internet was brought up and plans for punishing the company were announced. Google was informed that the display of websites outside China as well as associated content were banned from searches on Google in China.

Continued on the next page: Ministry of Public Security was not mentioned