People laying flowers and bowing to Google’s Ｃｈｉｎｅｓｅ ｏｆｆｉｃｅｓ
Now that everyone’s had a little time to digest the news that Google has presented an open challenge to Chinese censorship and cyber attacks, it seems like the general consensus is: Yeah, bye bye G.cn. Google’s more or less sure to leave because the chances of the government a) admitting to cyber spying and b) allowing an uncensored version of Google’s search engine to go up are pretty much nil.
This prophecy holds especially possible since it seems the net nanny has already begun its work on the news in China. While the story, in a very factual form, is still at the top of Sina’s Tech webpage, it’s no longer a trending topic on Sina’s Twitter clone despite around 60,000 tweets on it just an hour ago. Meanwhile, a Netease translation of Google HQ’s statement was harmonized pretty darn quick.
In fact, people have been leaving flowers in front of Google’s Wudaokou office in Beijing as their sign of respect to a company that has brought the knife to its own 700-employee throat.
Interestingly enough, preliminary reports make it seem that Chinese citiznes are the saddest to see Google go. The Wall Street Journal said that in a poll on its website that 72% of 934 Chinese WSJ voters felt that Google should stay here, compared to a resounding 80% of English readers were adamant that Google leave. Some are reporting that Google.cn fans are now camped outside the Wudaokou branch, voicing their support for internet freedom.
Of course, there are still those who feel that the move is more about business than ethics. TechCrunch pointed out that Google was never able to move past its No. 2 position here and that publishing an English language blog post chiding the Chinese government was a PR move by someone already ready to cut the cord.
But several others have responded that even a No. 2 position in the world’s biggest potential market ain’t bad. As Robert Scoble of Scoblelizer put it:
…if you are an executive inside a large tech company you are always being pushed and pulled. I’m glad I don’t need to make that choice. Even in Google’s letter you can see the push and pull. They didn’t just say “we’re out.” Why not? Because of the pull.
Why doesn’t the US government do anything? Well, because the Chinese have loaned us tons of money because of our deficit. The government isn’t willing to put any penalties on Chinese products to force the door open for Google or Facebook. And it gets worse over time.
So, now that Google found out that it was getting attacked by hackers paid by the government it said enough is enough.
…This is the reality of dealing inside China. That’s why it was brave for Google to stand up to the Chinese government. Might have been a very stupid business decision (even being #2 in China means sizable profits and business over time).
James Fallows adds that the decision to leave, whether it is based on business, ethics, or both, is incredibly significant:
The significance for Google is of the “last straw” variety. For years, the company has struggled to maintain the right path in China. Its policy around the world is that it will obey the law of whatever country it operates in…
Dealing with those requirements has been part of a non-stop set of difficulties for Google in China. More details about this later on. Like most other Western companies, Google has consistently decided to cope with the difficulties and stay in China. Part of the reason was the obvious commercial potential that the Chinese market has for almost any company in any industry. Another part was Google’s argument — which I basically believe — that the Chinese public was better off with another source of information, even if constrained, than it would be without that option. But, as reported on Google’s site, a latest wave of provocations and intrusions was simply too much…
Says Fallows, this signifies the beginning of “China’s Bush-Cheney era”:
In a strange and striking way there is an inversion of recent Chinese and U.S. roles. In the switch from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, the U.S. went from a president much of the world saw as deliberately antagonizing them to a president whose Nobel Prize reflected (perhaps desperate) gratitude at his efforts at conciliation. China, by contrast, seems to be entering its Bush-Cheney era. For Chinese readers, let me emphasize again my argument that China is not a “threat” and that its development is good news for mankind. But its government is on a path at the moment that courts resistance around the world. To me, that is what Google’s decision signifies.