Chinese Internet users flooded the web on Thursday appealing for Google not to close down its operations in the country after the US giant's ultimatum to Beijing over censorship and cyberattacks.
"It's not Google that's withdrawing from China, it's China that's withdrawing from the world," one Internet user said on Twitter, a sentiment echoed in other tweets.
Google announced on Tuesday it would no longer censor search engine results in China and possibly pull out of the world's largest online market, complaining about cyberattacks and censorship by the communist regime.
China-based cyber spies struck the Internet giant and reportedly more than 30 other firms in an apparent bid for computer source codes, intellectual property, and information about human rights activists around the world.
Chinese online users have been flooding Twitter even though the micro-blogging website is currently blocked by Beijing - evidence that savvy Web surfers can easily circumvent the "Great Firewall of China".
The authorities in the world's most populous nation regularly block content and websites they deems politially objectionable in a vast censorship system in a country with an estimated 360 million online users.
Social networking site Facebook and Google's video-sharing system YouTube are also blocked.
"I'm strongly asking Google to stay, the government is really too overbearing" said one posting on Baidu.com, Google's chief rival in China.
"I'm not a worshipper of foreign things, and I deeply love my country, but the government cannot be too excessive!"
On Sina.com, another popular Chinese web portal, reaction was also strong.
"If Google disappears from China, how will intellectuals look for information?" said one online user.
Others, however, were more sceptical.
"They're bluffing," one said on Sina.com. "Google's situation in China was not easy. It's hard for a capitalist company to adapt in a communist country."
Another said it would be a mistake for the Internet giant to leave China.
"Leaving the Chinese market would indicate the failure of Google in China. The Chinese market is huge, it would even be a mistake on their part," the online user said.
Google's announcement was reported in some state-run newspapers on Thursday, although there was no mention of it in the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece.
China's vast media and publishing industries are tightly controlled by the party, either directly or through self-policing by the nation's proliferating media outlets to avoid running afoul of authorities.
Publications that have crossed the line with aggressive reporting or content deemed to have embarrassed the government have been subject to shut downs while editorial officials have been dismissed and even prosecuted.
But the English-language Global Times, which is run by the People's Daily, said China will lose out if Google makes good on its threat, saying people had the right to a free flow of information.
"Should the world's most populous nation fail to provide a foothold to the world's top search engine, it would imply a setback to China and serious loss to China's Net culture," it said.
It said a Google withdrawal would be "an incalculable loss to its long-term commitment to innovation" as well as a loss of future business.
"The information highway demands not only safe driving but also free flow of traffic. And, in the interests of the majority's right to know, free flow of information should take precedence in a civil society," the Global Times said.
"Google and China going their separate ways would hurt both sides."
China has said it was seeking more information about the announcement. Requests for comment from the foreign, commerce and information technology ministries were not immediately answered.
The Global Times - which splashed the story on its front page, as did the state-run China Daily - said while censorship was justified in a "transitional society" like China to maintain social stability, some limits were needed.
"The government must face up to the challenge of where and how to put the checkpoints on the (information) highway," it said.Reuse content