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Google v. China

The Economist's weekly political cartoon

The Economist's weekly political cartoon

I love business. It’s unbelievably personal, always political, often petty, and just sometimes actually important.

Throw in a rising world power itching to prove its might and a multinational with the motto “Don’t Be Evil” and you’ve got a battle for the history books.

Here’s the gist:

  • Google’s been operating in China since 2006, having made a deal with the government to comply with censorship restrictions by self-censoring its search results. Google felt that it could offer the Chinese people better access to an increased pool of information in spite of China’s “Great Firewall”.
  • The company has remained number two in market share to Baidu, a local search-engine.
  • This month, Google discovered that some of the gmail accounts of its users (human-rights activists) had been hacked(the breach originated in mainland China).
  • Google’s response? Better security? No. Google is now refusing to self-censor its search-results. The company is basically daring the Chinese government to force it out.

I find this unbelievable. Google’s decision to potentially leave China, from a business-perspective surprises me. Although the company is the number two search-engine in China, it is the number-one choice of the educated class and still a huge player. Moreover, the response simply does not fit. The way I see it, Google is disappointed in its Chinese operations and realizing now that it sold its soul a little too cheaply…

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