Was Google's China Experiment Worth It?

Either way, it's coming to an end soon

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Make no mistake: Google has a deep presence in China. In a country with 350 million Web users, its search engine controls nearly one-third of the market. Government workers use Gmail, Chinese exporters depend on Google Translate and, every day, Chinese citizens explore Google Maps. But now, all signs suggest Google is closing its search engine Google.cn (the announcement may come Monday). This will be the first time a major corporation has pulled out out of China since 1993. On its face, the company's departure is a protest against Chinese censorship. But many have accused the search giant of cultural imperialism. Was Google's China experiment worth it?

  • Yes: Google at Least Got the Chinese Talking About Censorship, writes Rebecca McKinnon at RConversation: "The 'Google China incident' - as many Chinese call it - has greatly heightened awareness among normally apolitical Chinese Internet users about the extent of Internet censorship in their country. It has sparked a lot of debate and soul searching about the extent to which their government is causing them to be isolated from the rest of the world."
  • No: Google Has Made a Big Mistake writes Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher: "Google has demonstrated a shocking lack of historical knowledge and lack of understanding of Chinese culture in its dealings with the Chinese government. For a foreign organization to give the Chinese government an ultimatum on changing its laws is like poking a sharp stick into an old wound. Google should have Googled "Opium Wars" before it issued its ultimatum. The British forced the Chinese to make opium legal, which led to huge amounts of instability in Chinese society, and resulted in two brutal wars, the second one included the French. The Chinese government is concerned that without Internet censorship, there will be instability in its society. Yet Google makes those demands, angered by a 'sophisticated' hacker attack, and brings up the issue of human rights when it was a non issue when it entered the Chinese market."
  • Yes: Google Has Set a Great Example, writes Tyler Waldman at The Towerlight: "I’m no ethicist, and I don’t pretend to be one. But is the involvement of American firms in this crazed system of censorship ethical? ... Helping a government ... to lie to its own people is far from a noble cause. American tech firms should follow Google’s lead."
  • No: Google Is Now Seen as an Arm of the U.S. Government, says Xu at Chinese Radio International: "As a hi-tech company famous for its innovation, Google's deviation from the principle that the business world has long been sticking to and its politicized actions make people can't help but doubt whether the firm is still doing business independently and what its backers really want... No country will allow information about subversion, separation, racialism and terrorism to circulate in it through the Internet. Sovereignty and borders also exist in cyberspace, which will need to be watched by each country's laws and regulations."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.