The Yin & Yang of Google’s China Bash
Google dropped a bomb shell yesterday when it wrote in “The Official Google Blog” that they are planning to un-censor all search results in China even if that means shutting down google.cn and its operations in China. Google also said that it recently faced cyber attacks (on GMail) originating from China that targeted Chinese Human Rights activists which caused intellectual property theft. What Google didn’t say directly was that it believes that the attack was backed by the Chinese government.
This has sparked a lot of debate around the blogosphere with basically two point of views -
A). This is a purely business decision and has got nothing to do with Google being ethical or upholding the “Don’t be evil” stance. Google is quitting China because it was loosing badly there and was never going to beat Baidu. [Yin]
B). Google with this decision has set high stands and has upheld its “Don’t be Evil” stance by finally deciding not bow down to Chinese Government. [Yang]
This is quite confusing, because initially I was convinced with both point of views and lets face it – no one knows exactly what went into that meeting in which Google took this historic decision. But after a lot of thinking I would like to go with the later view and I believe that Google has indeed made a GREAT decision for the cause of open web. This decision should be applauded and I for that matter would give a standing ovation to Google just for this decision.
Lets reason it out.
1). This is NOT just a business decision – Google in turn stands to loose out loads of business and business opportunities. It will loose its presence (for ever) in one of the most booming economies in the world. It will loose its presence in a county which factually has the largest internet population in the world (yes that is even more than US and lot more than India). Infact, I would say that this could prove to be an awful business decision for Google. Though Google’s profit in China are marginal but don’t forget last quarter was Google China’s best quarter ever.
2). Google is NOT leaving China because it was beaten by Baidu – I don’t understand what harm will it cause if Google still continues to be a second player (with 17% search market share). Quitting just because you are second and save your face has no business value. This alone can not be the basis of the decision. But again if Google was having Baidu’s market share and was a leader in China then it would have never taken this decision and would have continued censoring search.
Bottom line – This could not have been a major deciding factor but could have helped Google to seal the China deal.
3). Why now? What was Google doing for the past 4 years? As evident from Google’s post that the Intellectual Property theft (which according to Google was quite serious in nature) finally caused every thing to blow off. Perhaps that was the point Google realized that its better to say good bye to China so that it can act more freely against the attackers. It is still difficult to digest that one attack on its corporate infrastructure made Google to take such a big decision. If this is the one of the major reasons then I am sure the attack would have been very serious and Google might have lost some key Intellectual Property which Google thinks might be used against it in future.
4). Sergey Brin Was the Mover – Though many blogs have missed this point but I think this deserves a mention here. Sergey Brin right from the very beginning was cynical about operations in China because of censorship issues. And believe it or not his hate for censorship has a lot to do with his upbringing in communist Soviet Russia. Only WSJ has given a due credit to this point. Check out this video of Ken Auletta who also says that Google was considering this move right from 2008.
5). Google Is Done With China – Yesterday’s post possibly means a dead end for Google in China. This is not the way companies do business in China. You just don’t write out an only English post blackmailing the government of quitting if it dosen’t agree to your demands. It is actually the other way round in China. The way Google has gone about this indicates that Google has more or less decided that it will eventually move out of China. There is literally no room left for negotiations with the Chinese Government which becomes more evident with the statement of Chinese official who says
“Effective guidance of public opinion on the Internet is an important way of protecting the security of online information”
Check out the official text at the Chinese government Site (or the translated version in English). Remember to succeed in China you have to kiss and keep kissing the Governments ass, perhaps the reason why Baidu is ahead of Google there.
6). Google at the End of the day is a way more ethical company that its counterparts – and I have no second thought about this. Google upholds or at least tries to uphold its “Don’t be Evil” stance. Google is the only company which more often than not gives a logical explanation for its decisions, be it entering into a totally new market or taking some kind of ruthless business decision. “Don’t be evil” is always at the heart of these decisions. Today Google mends the most infamous Evil decision it took some 4 years ago. This is more than just business, it is a lot more personal.
Cheers to Google.