The Cable

Google confirms traffic drop-off in China

Just in time for its once-a-decade leadership handover, the Chinese government appears to have blocked all access to Google and its services, including Gmail, inside China.

According to Google's own online transparency reporting, which provides realtime traffic data for Google sites around the world, a precipitous drop-off of traffic to Google sites began at exactly 5 p.m. China time Nov. 9, and is still ongoing.

The Cable asked Google what was going on and a spokesperson replied simply: "We've checked and there's nothing wrong on our end."

Websites that monitor Internet censorship in China report that attempts to access various Google services inside China right now are met with a redirection to a non-functional IP address.

"The subdomains www.google.com, mail.google.com, google-analytics.com, docs.google.com, drive.google.com, maps.google.com, play.google.com and perhaps many more are all currently DNS poisoned in China. Instead of the real IP addresses, any lookups from China to any of these domains result in the following IP: 59.24.3.173. That IP address is located in Korea and doesn't serve any website at all," reports the site greatfire.org. "This means that none of these websites, including Google Search, currently work in China, unless you have a VPN or other cirumvention [sic] tool."

Chinese netizens have also been grumbling about Google over the past few hours. "What's wrong with the Google browser," wrote one Weibo user in Fujian. "It's been stumbling through just to get an order on Taobao [China's largest e-commerce website]. Not easy..."

"Without Google, I can't access any basic apps. It has the ability to shut down the entire web," wrote another.

Washington Post blogger Max Fisher noted that the move is the second time Google has been blocked in China and is part of an overall set of restrictions imposed this week.

"Is this Web freedom in the Xi Jinping era, which begins this week as the vice president starts a 10-year term leading China?" Fisher wrote. "The state has been clamping down all week for the once-in-a-decade Party Congress, so it's not clear if this is a temporary move or a permanent one. But, either way, China has made clear that, if it ever considered Google beyond blocking, it doesn't anymore."

The last and only other time Google was blocked in China was in 2010 shortly after Google announced it would no longer censor search terms on Google.cn and moved the bulk of its Chinese operations to Hong Kong. That move followed a series of Gmail attacks in 2010, directed at Chinese human rights activists, which were widely suspected to be linked to the Chinese government.

More recently, Google has taken an aggressive approach to helping users combat government cyber censorship, by doing things such as warning Gmail users when Google suspects their accounts are being targeted by state-sponsored attacks and telling users when search terms they enter are likely to be rejected by Chinese government censorship filters.

In a July interview with The Cable, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that China's "Great Firewall" will eventually crumble and that when the Chinese Internet censorship regime fails, the penetration of information throughout the country will also cause political and social liberalization that will fundamentally change the nature of the Chinese government's relationship to its citizenry.

"I personally believe that you cannot build a modern knowledge society with that kind of behavior, that is my opinion," he said. "I think most people at Google would agree with that. The natural next question is when [will China change], and no one knows the answer to that question. [But] in a long enough time period, do I think that this kind of regime approach will end? I think absolutely."

GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images

The Cable

Obama to visit Burma on Southeast Asia swing

Fresh off his reelection victory, Barack Obama is about to put his personal stamp on his administration's "pivot" to Asia.

The president will resume his international travel schedule next week and visit Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia, where he will attend the East Asia Summit and the annual meeting of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the trip, which will be from Nov. 17 to 20. In Thailand, Obama will meet with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. In Burma, he will meet with President Thein Sein and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"During his interactions in the region he will discuss a broad range of issues including economic prosperity and job creation through increased trade and partnerships, energy and security cooperation, human rights, shared values, and other issues of regional and global concern," Carney said.

Obama became the first U.S. president to join the East Asia Summit last year and he also attended the annual ASEAN conference when he traveled to Bali, Indonesia, for both events. A greater U.S. presence in Asian multilateral organizations is a pillar of the administration's rebalancing strategy toward Asia.

But when Obama made a round of calls to world leaders today to thank them for their congratulations following his reelection, no East Asian officials were on that list. Egypt's new leader got a call, but not the prime minister of Japan, long one of America's closest Pacific allies.

Obama spoke with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, President Mohammed Morsy of Egypt, President François Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom.

That list includes four out of five of Obama's self-identified world leader buddies. The fifth, outgoing South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, did not get a call today.

"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," Carney said.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages