# Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Today Google announced on its corporate blog that as of today all Google traffic in China will be redirected to Google’s site here in Hong Kong. I use the Hong Kong Google site daily and it has no censorship since Hong Kong is an autonomous self-governing region of China. The Chinese government said that Google is "totally wrong" and accused it of breaking a promise made when it launched its service in China.

I suspect that China will soon block google.com.hk or Google’s mainland China users will stop using Google since the Hong Kong site has excellent search results that have local relevance for Hong Kong but not for mainland China. Either way, the end is near for Google in China. It is interesting that Google has decided to burn a bridge in China.

My question is, does Google’s great “moral” stand matter? Can a company like Google effect the politics of a nation? Should they even try to?

Normally I would say no, a company should not try to change the politics of a nation it is doing business in. If it disagrees with the policies of a nation, it should not do business there. Would Google have done business in Nazi Germany? The Soviet Union?

The world rushes to do business with China, but sweeps under the rug the fact that it is not a free society. (I am reminded of this every day when I read the newspaper in Hong Kong and there is a story about some restriction on the mainland.) The question is, will Google’s actions make other companies think twice about China?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010 8:53:33 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
If, by "think twice", you mean, "understand that you're doing business in a foreign country with laws and customs very different than your own," then, yes, I expect that companies will think twice.

If, by "think twice", you mean, "consider the sort of government that would support organized hacking directed at foreign companies and governments as a normal course of conduct," then I hope that companies will be cautious, and more than a little nervous.

But if, by "think twice", you mean, "calculate what a tiny sliver of the Chinese market could do to their income statement," then I'm quite certain that companies are going to continue to try to find a way to make a Chinese presence work.

No other company on the face of the earth could do what Google is doing. For the sake of all the companies that don't have this kind of weight to throw around, I hope they can make a difference.
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