Yahoo! Co-Founder Discusses Chinese Government Internet Censorship

April 1, 2005

Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang responded to a question about how China's government regulates the Internet during a March 29 interview at the PC Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. (See below to read a transcript of the exchange between Mr. Yang and the interviewer. A video of the interview is also available from

The CECC Annual Report for 2002 noted that Yahoo!'s China subsidiary joined hundreds of Chinese companies in March 2002 in signing the Internet Society of China's "Public Pledge of Self-Regulation and Professional Ethics for China Internet Industry." The CECC 2004 Annual Report said that Yahoo!'s Internet search engines for users in China censor search results to exclude sites for the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and Human Rights in China, as well as sites discussing Falun Gong, Tibetan independence, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.


Interviewer: Is there anything they [the Chinese government] are doing there that you think is wrong?

Yang: Its hard for me to answer that question, because I don't see it as Jerry versus the government of China. I definitely don't see it that way. When it is explained to me, it seems 100% rational. You know, they will have, they were talking about some news, you know, some news person, some news department official was talking to me about how they have, because they've never had a real journalistic tradition along the lines of free press. Once people got access to Web sites, once people got access to independent publishing tools, they find true issues with lack of, you know, veracity around stories. Whether he was telling the truth, you know, I don't know or not. But clearly he's having these issues of saying, we've got these people who are just posting things and saying that they're true. And in China, you know, once it becomes true in the village, it becomes true in the city, it becomes true in the county. There's a lot of work to try and figure all that out. And so his way of dealing with that situation is a top down, sort of a censorship type of tool. I asked him if you have better ways of doing it, if you have better tools for doing it, would you do it? Of course, you know, these people, they're not bureaucrats by definition, they're bureaucrats in my mind because that's the kind of tools they have to use. But, you know, I think censorship ultimately is a wrong value. But for them to manage from, you know, for fifty years they had no way of having a second opinion about anything. You know, its state run news. To, now fifty little Web sites have come up and say, well, this person got killed, or no, he didn't get killed, or he might have got killed . . . you know these, that's a transition. And they absolutely believe, they meaning the government, they absolutely believe they're going to have to do it in an orderly transition. And I think everybody you talk to there believes the country's becoming more market driven, believes its more open, believes that the people there are starting to become more multi-dimensional around commercial interests, private interests, as well as government interests, versus uni-dimensional in the past. But that transition is going to be managed by the government. Its not going to be managed by anybody else. And I think thats the game that everybody who wants to business in China has to understand.