Currently, Google is threatening to shutdown its China operations, Google.cn. Thus far, China’s response has been “go ahead.” Google doesn’t like the heavy-handed censorship in China, and China thinks that Google, if it wants to do business in China, should obey the laws of China. So now what?
I think we’ll all get to see this scenario play completely out relatively quickly. Google, after all, is not a company that procrastinates. Much of the Google reputation, after all, is built on speed. Now that Google has thrown down the gauntlet, as it were, it does not behoove them to remain in decision-making limbo for very long.
China has not even cursorily mentioned that it might be agreeable to discussing Google’s concerns about Chinese censorship. The position of China is short and clear: if you want to do business in China, you must obey our laws!
Clearly, the people of China themselves very much enjoy using Google, despite it being stringently (by US standards) censored. But just as clearly, the powers-that-be in China do not care whether its citizens like Google or not. This pretty much leaves Google standing all alone in its quest to continue to do business in China with less censorship.
Putting aside subjectivity, China has the high ground on this touchy issue, and Google will end up either ending its service or eating its complaints – ala humble pie style. Whether the censorship laws of China are right or wrong or good or bad, they are their laws – and Google has the obligation to abide by them while doing business in their country. Just as we expect foreign companies doing business in the US to abide by our laws. Note the recent problems with Chinese goods and toxins. We compelled the Chinese to oblige our laws – not theirs – when selling products to the American public.
China has long been the target of groups and governments seeking a higher global standard of human rights. To the American public, the censorship laws of China are absurdly confining and preclude the free flow of information to the Chinese public.
If Google actually believes that what China is doing in terms of censorship is wrong or unfair, then it is right to quit doing business there. That is the honorable, upright thing to do. It sends a clear message that I’m sure will have at least some impact on Chinese thinking – in political arenas and at the grassroots level.
If Google is just trying a bluff, to see if China will allow them to avoid the country’s laws, then shame on Google. As a regular Google user, I hope this is not the case. I hope Google makes the correct decision and simply ends its services to China.