Google’s (Right) Choice

Today’s biggest news is Google’s blog about stopping censoring its content on Google.cn, and considering quitting from China. I typically don’t comment immediately about any news, because often, I need more time to under the situation better (as I stated here). But for this topic, I have been thinking it for a long time. I know what I am going to say about this, when it happens.

The Nature of Google’s Choice

The dilemma Google faced is the dilemma every international international companies face, and every Chinese Internet companies face (although it is not often discussed or even thought about). Google’s choice, not as most media headline stated, was not to cease from China. Their choice is to stop censoring the Google.cn content, which may in turn lead to very high possibility to be forced to shutdown in China. Although these two events are connected, but they are very different.

Now the ball is at the Chinese authority’s hand: Google made a clear statement, and the ball is no longer at Google’s hand – it is the government’s turn to make the tough decision (although I believe it won’t be too hard for them to make) to drive Google away.

It sounds like suicide, but stopping censor itself is different than killing the business – it just gives the gun to another party. It is not “kill himself”, it is “has himself killed”.

What is the Right Thing to Do

There are many debate about whether Google is doing the right thing, or acted as stupid, and naive as a boy. Different people have different principles to judge what is right. Thanks Xiaolai to share the wonderful Harvard course on justice: What is the right thing to do. Hope by watching that movie, we get some inspiration about the answer. It is a vivid case that people will continue to study for many years, I guess.

P.S. Do a Flickr search for Google China and order by time these days, to discover what is happening outside Google office:

Photograph credit: Qifei

28 thoughts on “Google’s (Right) Choice

  1. adam

    For “Google.cn”, it’s suicide. But for “Google”, it could be just a surgery, and might be proved in future as a wise decision in the long run – for a big global company who chooses to insists it’s values.

  2. xge

    My solute to Google. Google made a hard and noble choice.

    It is saddening to see that none of the Chinese media would dare to report the full content of the Google newsletter. Even my respected CaiJing chose to not mention anything about the organized hacking of the human right activist’s email accounts.

  3. steveLiu

    Google has been very disturbing here. Since they could not compete against Baidu in a fierce market like China, they need to withdraw their business operations there. In order to save some faces, Google just blames their business failure in China on hacking or internet censorship. LOL. Take eBay for example. eBay did not face the internet censorship, but they still could not win over market share in China from local guys like taobao.com.

    Jianshuo, without a politically stable and business prosper China, your baixing.com could simply go south. You owe your success to China, the great Chinese people, and somehow to the Chinese government. I think they are doing a fabulous job. BTW, I am a Chinese living overseas for 14 years.

  4. ILH

    One stone, two birds. Good move Google! This is more of a business decision than anything else. The world is big. It’s a wise move to take the money some place else where can yield more returns.

  5. Jeremy Bentham

    I think “steveLiu” is probably one of those human robots who get paid to write this stuff defending the invisible hands that controls the machinery

  6. xge

    Hi steveLiu, what does “BTW, I am a Chinese living overseas for 14 years” mean. Do you think living overseas somehow make you point more valid?

  7. Anna

    Even if google doesn’t block it anymore the government can still make those photos/links hard to get too. It’s what we have with google.com now. Half the time when you click a link google goes dead for a few minutes and the picture search only shows 3 pictures, the rest are all “broken”.

  8. Andrew

    “…Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom …”

    – Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman

    Can China have an ‘economically prosperous and politically censored internet’?

  9. ecodelta

    “Half the time when you click a link google goes dead for a few minutes and the picture search only shows 3 pictures, the rest are all “broken”.”

    You can still get the information through google cache in many cases.

  10. steveLiu

    Here is what Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said:

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/184446/googles_schmidt_roasted_for_privacy_comments.html

    “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it’s important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

    I am watching you —- Uncle Sam

  11. martin

    Interesting idea I saw on the economist website:

    http://www.economist.com/node/15267915/comments

    Hajo Thailand wrote:

    Jan 13th 2010 3:36 GMT

    Google should offer a free VPN service for all Chinese to enable them reading all uncensored news around the World. Even here in Thailand there is a lot of censorship and I’m using such a service in the UK to bypass this. Technically simply and easy… service can be offered free of charge financed by advertising. Google should withdraw operations from China, it’s not worth it and users can easily access Google sites outside China.

  12. Michael2

    I prefer Google.com to Google.cn, and I think it is better to have a 100% search engine rather than a 70% search engine that filters out content that the government has decided is undesirable. This is not just about China. Other countries such as Austraia are also considering ‘clean feed’ internet, which I will oppose. Google should aim to provide the best product. If the Chinese government told Mercedes-Benz they could only sell cars in China with a 1300 engine and many features disabled, would Mercedes sell a ‘Mercedes with Chinese characteristics’, or wold they preserve the reputation of Mercedes as a top model car. I know which decision I would make.

  13. one

    “Jianshuo, without a politically stable and business prosper China, your baixing.com could simply go south. You owe your success to China, the great Chinese people, and somehow to the Chinese government. I think they are doing a fabulous job. BTW, I am a Chinese living overseas for 14 years.”

    It’s laughable how on one hand some are enjoying freedom of speech and infomation as an overseas Chinese while at the same time telling people how fabulous internet censorship in China is. Realising how great everything in China is, these people should stop talking and make their way back to the ‘motherland’ to experience things first hand, like the mighty great harmonious ‘internet’ with Chinese characteristics.

  14. Will

    it’s the Game between govern. and Google. Google won’t leave China market, maybe just a good reason for them to drop Google.cn away.

  15. 超级考拉

    这是关于互联网的事,终于有人站出来跟中国互联网叫板,在中国谁敢站出来跟互联网的老大叫板?只有GOOGLE了。

    其实你看到的意见虽然多,但大体上只有那么几种而已。因为人群的思维方式总是有因果关系的。所以,就会有客观两个字的含义了。

    而且,我发现,我寻找越是真正的个人,真正的普通写博克的人,它们的想法越是让人觉得真实,与那些写惯了枪稿的人不同,真实的人所写出来对这件事情的看法越是真。

    不管人们怎么说,发展是客观的。只有接近客观的人所说的东西才能称之为正确。这需要一个验证的过程,如果少了这个验证的过程,你将会被烟没在众人的口水里。所以我不断的锻炼自己,使自己的判断越来越客观,这样,今我的判断成功率就会越高。需要这个过程。这个过程就是成长。但是,如果你放弃了这种锻炼,是不会有进步的

    签名:超级考拉的地盘儿

    http://bestkaola.info

  16. wonton

    Too many excuses are made for the sake of commerce. Be glad that there are at least SOME company with a conscience.

    Yes, perhaps it may appear that for today, China is king of the world. And the sick man is finally standing up.

    But rejoice not too fast, because there is much undenial rot in our system. Our overzealous tendancies to side with the monster within will endear us to no one. Nobody likes a bully…or the mindless small fry that crowds around the bully.

  17. GN

    IF you are interested, at least for today, you can google some stuff (like the summer of 20 some years ago) on google.cn and you’ll see results you never saw before!

  18. Bindu

    i always amaze at people trying to wipe out memory of some events that actually happened. how can these people insist nothing happened when in fact the whole world witnessed what happened

    it reminds me of my neighbor’s kid who kicked a football and broke my window and the broken glass cut my daughter and some other kids, it was captured on video, but the dad insists on wiping out clean any traces of the recorded events…what good could it possibly do? I asked the dad. he never got back to me and the family disappeared soon after.

  19. novint

    村上春树:”Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg, Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will do it.” 对,不管墙有多么正确,蛋有多么错,我都会站在蛋这一边。

  20. Joyce Lau

    Steve — If you spent 14 years overseas, then you know the huge difference in freedom to speech and information between a place like China and the U.S.

    It’s funny. Some people are so defensive (probably embarrassed because Google made China lose face) that instead of looking at the big picture — that Chinese censorship is driving away major companies — they feel the need to point the finger at someone else.

    The Patriot Act is a very specific thing that doesn’t impact daily freedom of speech — certainly not the way it’s disrupted in China.

    Americans can say what they want, write what they want, read what they wants, and not worry about being jailed, blocked, or needing a VPN just to watch YouTube. Plus, you can criticize the government without someone questioning your patriotism or love of your country.

    I think your comment to Jianshuo was backhanded. You’re painting him as some sort of ingrate to the Motherland, just because he took a good, critical look at the Google issue.

    I agree with alot of people here. Your comments sound a bit too much like government boilerplate to be believable.

  21. Peng

    before saying hats off to google, it is hard to tell what’s the real motivation from google to do it in this way, simply because it is a political matter now, and it shouldn’t be so difficult to predict this consequence before they made this announcement, as a business there are many different choices, what are they looking for by challenging in this way?

    but i am not trying to say i am pleased by having censorship, which is going crazy these days, so many connection resets and i really can no longer work… this is insane for what the gov is doing, yes sir i understood the world is wild and stability is so important, but what’s happening is gov is always doing too much more than necessary without having any rule behind, even not to mention how they are going to setup such kind rule… when stability is the only thing left in the mind how long it will last?

  22. rain

    I’m proud of Google. I’ve almost always used it, but now I’ll do it for sure. It seems to me they are doing the right things.There is a nice song Do the Right Thing by Redhead Kingpin. If you do not know it you may find it at music SE http://www.mp3hunting.com . Well, the main thing is not money but principles.

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