Google in China
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The Chinese informational space deserves a fair amount of focused discussion, since it is so different from the Western one and is at odds with some of the basic understandings of the Western person about the free access to information. The experience of Google in China pushes one to think critically of the real freedom of speech and thought in the modern world. When setting up operations in China Google had to follow official and unofficial laws of the hosting country, the rules of the market, and comply with its own mission and vision while maintaining ethical model of doing business.
The Chinese Internet is subjected to severe state regulation, which stifles the thriving informational exchange. The Communist power has a monopoly when it comes to information dissemination, and the international Internet companies are regulated by countless laws. The government has developed a comprehensive system that outlines the acceptable and not acceptable Internet behavior (Eko, Kumar, & Yao, 2011). This is the environment that Google decided to enter and, therefore, had to follow the laws. In this way, one of the principles which formed the basis for Google’s operation in China was the local legal framework. The experience of the company has not been absolutely successful in this country. Entering a setting that is culturally geographically, linguistically, and politically very different, the company had difficulties managing the diverse clientele. Moreover, due to governmental monitoring, there were frequent blockings of some pages with allegedly pornographic or otherwise unsuitable content (Tan, & Tan, 2012). All this was rather disturbing both for the company and its users.
Another principle which Google had to comply with is its own goal. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (Google, 2013). One can see that some of the dealings of the company in China contradicted this mission statement. The company faced daily ethical dilemmas and obviously had to decide between maximization of profits and ethics. In fact, the responsibility to the shareholders and the laws of the market is the third principle that was kept in mind by the company officials. Throughout the thorny career in China the shareholders were always considered and the market shares calculated. The market assessment was carried out continuously and the domestic competitors from China carefully watched.
Looking at the overall strategy of Google and the actions undertaken in the Chinese context it is possible to argue that the company maintained ethical way of conducting its operations. Without a doubt, the company can be accused of playing along with the Communist Party of China and perpetuating the censorship conditions. However, looking more critically, such accusations are not substantially grounded. It is worth noting that even the introduction of Google to Chinese people was a big step at that time. At least for a short period of time Chinese people tasted the freedom of access to the wealth of information. They could now compare what they were denied and start fighting against this oppression. The fact that Google later complied with some of censorship regulations is controversial but from the other perspective the limited access it permitted to the information is still better than no access at all. Finally, the ethical behavior of the company at hand culminated in its withdrawal from China in the year 2010 when there were false accusations imposed on Google.
Examining the data one can see that the case of Google in China is full of controversies and legitimate questions. The opinion as to the ethical behavior of the company and of Chinese government may differ but the truth remains in the fact that this episode can become a suitable stepping stone for increased access to information in China and a good example for businesses of the difficulties faced in different cultural and legal context.
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