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Five Opinions on the Google China Announcement

January 15, 2010

As you probably all know, Google made an announcement that it would no longer be willing to censor its searches after discovering the Gmail accounts of human rights dissidents had been breached. Rumours and speculation are, of course, rife over whether there are other reasons as to why Google may be leaving China.

Here are the top 5 views from brainy people on Google China’s announcement:

1. William Moss, Imagethief: China has broken just about every rule in the book for corporate communications in China

Google has taken the China corporate communications playbook, wrapped it in oily rags, doused it in gasoline and dropped a lit match on it….Google has undertaken a bet-the-farm confrontational communications approach in China. They will not have made this decision lightly. Dressed up in the polite language above is what is essentially an ultimatum: Allow us to present uncensored search results to our Chinese users or we’ll walk. The Chinese government is not likely to cave to an ultimatum from a foreign company, no matter how decorously delivered.

2. George Godula, Web2Asia: Leaving a country with a market as big as China’s is global suicide for any company in the long run.

If the company would value ethical standards more than business standards it would have never entered China in the first place and played along to Chinese CENSORSHIP. Period. You cannot do business (by that I mean profit generating business) in China with Western ethical standards. If you deny that you either have no idea about China or are lying to yourself. Period. You either join the dark side of the force or stay out.

3. Jeremy Goldkorn, The Guardian: If Google cannot operate here in accordance with its international standards, it should leave.

The fallout will be interesting. I can’t recall a single case of a major international company with operations in China taking a stand like this. As someone who agreed with Google’s reasoning when it entered China, I also support this move. If it cannot operate here in accordance with its global standards, it should leave.

4. Douglas Rushkoff, The Daily Beast: Google is using the announcement to detract our attention away from the real issue: Google’s cloud computing system is easily hackable.

So it’s not that Google’s cloud computing technology is so easily hackable, it’s that Google’s misguided partnership with a repressive regime is so easily exploitable. My concern—for Google and for us—is that the reason they know it’s the Chinese government behind these attacks is because Google may have inadvertently given them the key.

5. Ethan Zuckermann, Harvard: Four possible explanations on why Google may be retreating from China.

Google decided to stop being evil.

Google retreated from a very tough market.

Google abandoned Chinese users.

Google is about to join the front lines of the anticensorship wars.

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