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Google's puzzling logic

Robert Peston | 08:06 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

For many, what's endearing about Google is that it doesn't conduct business like most big multinationals.

Most big multinationals, for example, wouldn't go to war against China's freedom-of-speech policies via a blog - which is what Google has done.

Some might also argue that Google's argument in its blog isn't over-burdened with logic.

The "don't-be-evil" company starts by disclosing that "in mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google".

Google investigated and discovered there had been similar attacks on "at least twenty" other big companies (unnamed), in a great range of sectors (finance, chemicals, technology, media).

So far so chilling.

But, apparently, this wasn't a classic attempt to steal industrial secrets. The prime motivation was it seems to hack into the Gmail accounts of "Chinese human rights activists" - although Google has not made explicit whether that was the purpose of the cyber raids on all the affected companies, or just the attack on Google.

That said, Google is confident that the hackers were unable to retrieve any material information from this malign initiative. But its probe did discover that "the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties."

It says that these accounts were probably accessed using phishing scams or malware rather than through a breach of Google's own security arrangements.

All of which is pretty shocking.

But Google then makes a slightly curious leap.

It says "these attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China."

It says it will pull out of China unless the Chinese authorities belatedly allow it to run an "unfiltered" search engine there. No longer will Google collaborate in censoring access to websites and online information deemed by the Chinese government to be harmful to the state.

Which, on the face of it, is not a logical reaction. Some Google shareholders (those who put a higher premium on profits than on democratic rights) will see this as a commercial example of cutting off your nose to spite your face - because it is not remotely clear how a withdrawal from China by Google would enhance the privacy of Chinese human rights activists.

Of course, there is the power of theatre. Google's statement that it wants an unfettered Chinese search engine or none at all is certainly a big bold gesture that shines a light on systematic infringement of freedom of expression in that country.

But most campaigners for this freedom would argue that Google should never have agreed to be censored when launching its China service in January 2006.

And I suppose cynics would point out - and I'm not one of them - that China is an unusual market for Google in a second sense: Google doesn't dominate the search market there; it's the number two with a 31% share, way behind Baidu's 64%.

So Google's discovery that there are moral imperatives which outweigh the profit-motive should not be as expensive as it might have been.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Maybe the Chinese have the right idea. For far too long, the Internet has been worshipped as some kind of demigod, free from the inconvenient shackles of law and regulation. Google, like every other major net operator, simply wash their hands of this regulation and allow anybody access to anything, whilst innocently claiming that they are only facilitators and not censors. So in our 'enlightened' country, we allow children access to porn, violence, and the dissemination of images and videos of the most vile kind. Far from being an information superhighway to Knowledgeville, the internet has become a sleazy back-alley filled with danger, where you can be robbed, access inappropriate and rubbish information, and see the dark underbelly of modern life. You wouldn't do this in the real world, so why is it allowed in the virtual world? Like the Wild West, the 'net has become a lawless ungovernable cesspool of technology that makes other Governments and organisations afraid. The slightest hint of regulation is met with near hysteria by people who think that absolute freedom is somehow a good thing. It isn't. It's just chaos. Why should we criticise China for wanting to stop some of this? Google aren't doing this for the good of society. They aren't risking a huge profit loss - they already have billions. They won't suffer. They are sabre-rattling to make a political point - and what gives them the right to try and undermine a society that is home to over a billion people? All they care about is profit. They are not the 'good guys' - their sinster posturing reminds me of the evil media villain Carver in James Bond's 'Die Another Day'. They want everything on their own terms because that's where they'll make the most money. Will they be happy if the information 'freedom' that they desire leads to unrest and death? Just like all the net companies, they'll wash their hands of their responsibilities.

  • Comment number 2.

    Robert, your second to last paragraph has china twice when I think you meant google twice?

    It is an interesting move, no matter the motivations. Makes a change from talking about banks too!

    I agree though, the logic really doesnt follow. Given that they have attacks all the time from countries they don't pull out of. But I suppose its because the attacks may well have come from the leadership of china, rather than a disgruntled group or individual.

    Interesting times.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why can't Google just use better encryption technology?

    I suspect though that there is more to this story than meets the eye.
    There must be some US political dimension behind Google's stance to attack China on it's human rights front (again)...i.e. business as usual as far as Sino/US relations are concerned.

    There was a very interesting interview of Googles CEO Eric E. Schmidt last weekend that gives good insight into his business and political beliefs...of course his comments cover the current financial/banking crises as well..

    'Google's Eric Schmidt on why bankers deserve little sympathy and Obama does'
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/davos/6953842/Googles-Eric-Schmidt-on-why-bankers-deserve-little-sympathy-and-Obama-does.html

    I've certainly no doubt that his appointment as boss of Google was a political appointment by the US authorities...as he openly displays the anarcho, free-market loving, liberal democratic credentials that would have been essential for aapointment to this very powerful position!

    Schmidt must be very capable though...he is an engineer after all!

  • Comment number 4.

    What a refreshing change a business putting its principles before profit! Perhaps we should give them a bank to run.

  • Comment number 5.


    Q. Why can't Google just use better encryption technology?
    A. I was not an attack in the encryption it was an attack on the passwords

    "It says that these accounts were probably accessed using phishing scams or malware rather than through a breach of Google's own security arrangements."

    Unless they start issuing 2 factor authentication hardware (for a fee account) this is going to be an issue. Maybe issuing PKI certs would help but in the end phishing is a social engineering attack so it is a user education issue at the end of the day.

  • Comment number 6.

    After Google fell before the Chinese Government and decided to implement their censorship in order that they could pursue profits they quickly realised it was a mistake and affected people's view of them. But having given-in to the pressure they could not easily change their minds without looking stupid. So they had to wait for two things: a reasonable period of time and an excuse. Adequate time has passed and they now have the excuse so they can now withdraw without "egg on their faces", maybe even with a bt of moral high ground.

    Of course any moral high ground does require everybody to forget the way they got into China in the first place; how they gave way to the Chinese in their pursuit of profit and world domination. Forget that and they start to look more of a respectable organisation.

  • Comment number 7.

    @LippyLippo
    Are you advocating that free speech is a bad thing? Google claims China was trying to silence human rights activists. The censorship of Tienanmen Sqaure on all of China's search engines is quite illogical and shows the fear the Chinese government has of it's people, and if you find such things so purile to children, you can filter your internet yourself to stop your children from seeing such harmful things, but a government or business mandated filter is terrible as it is not your choice, but someone with vested interests. The aforementioned censorship of a dark day in Chinese history shows that China does not understand that what cannot stand up to criticism should not stand at all.

  • Comment number 8.

    i have a friend who has been working at google the last 2-3 years. he told me the thing that really struck him about the company is that its management seems genuinely motivated by a mission to make all information available everywhere, and that this motive actually overrides the profit motive. a surprisingly noble ambition, albeit sometimes a misguided one when it comes to issues of privacy and intellectual property rights.

    he says it is for this reason that the company basically uses the supernormal profits from its monopoly of the search-engine business to invest in all sorts of whacky projects that on the face of it don't actually have a compelling commercial rationale - google books being the classic example.

    in the case of china, i expect the management really did make an agonising decision about going in there in the first place - do they accept a censored version or do they stay out altogether, thereby completely depriving chinese users of their services? not an easy decision. i expect they realised too late they made the wrong decision - the publicity around their decision to enter not only reflected badly on them, but also gave the appearance of a public endorsement of the chinese government's position.

    what i expect has happened now is (a) google feels like the chinese government has reneged on what was in any case an unpleasant compromise by attacking their website, and (b) google in any case was looking for an opportunity to reverse their earlier decision, but preferably in a way that they could make a positive statement about their corporate values.

    personally i think what google has done is quite laudable.

  • Comment number 9.

    Is this a political solution!!!!!

    Are the bright sparks at Google are thinking of themselves as a Country now?

    I've worked in the IT industry for some considerable time and there is a strange superiority about its 'leaders'...... it was only a matter of time...... ;), lol, IMHO, etc.....

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    #1 you are talking rubbish.

    Presumeably by saying the Chinese are correct you agree that there should be a one party state, no freedom of speech, bureaucrats arresting and throwing in jail anyone they dislike.

    You can control how your children use the internet by various parental control software. As for children accessing porn and you being robbed I hate to mention the real world but when I was a kid (30+years ago sadly) and the dirty mags were on the top shelf on mewsagents, there was plenty of porn circulating round school and people were being robbed pretty regularly round our way.

    The internet can be as good or as bad as you want it to be. I shop on line regularly, use on-line banking and have never suffered theft, but I have had my credit card cloned at a restaurant and received worse service in a "real world" shop than I ever got on line

  • Comment number 12.

    At #1: You are making a completely valid point that needs debating openly and frankly, but you are doing this in an almost horrifyingly inappropriate manner.

    Chinese 'net censorship may be partly on a moral basis, but mostly it is an attempt to enforce in cyberspace their real-world policy of repressing freedom of speech.

    To see your words of praise for a system which, while it may reduce access to the seedier side of the Internet, exists mainly to impede, disrupt and oppress political opposition, is frankly sickening.

    Actually, scrap those preceding paragraphs, your last sentence makes clear that you are in fact a Chinese Communist Party propagandist.

  • Comment number 13.

    #1. LippyLippo wrote:

    "Maybe the Chinese have the right idea."

    No.

    Repression and the denial of the reasonable human right of self expression through free speech is a very good thing as it at one and the same time allows people to express themselves and, if the state is wise, it permits the state to try to achieve better management of the state and carry out its duty towards its people in a more just and effective manner.

    On the other hand a state that refuses to listen to wise, logical and rational advice no matter how free the speech is still fails (I am thinking in this instance of the UK and the state's highly selective attitude to professional engineering and scientific advice - c.f. the Home Office and drugs policy, the adoption of compulsory iXBRL delivery of all company accounts - without a paper option - by The Treasury, etc.) Governmental arrogance is always bad, always achieves bad results and undesired outcomes!

    On the other hand Google has become more dictatorial and more like Microsoft in recent times and perhaps it too should be taken down a peg or two for everyone's benefit!

  • Comment number 14.

    It is about time that Corporate Social Responsibility is actually put into action instead of being meaningless propaganda. The Chinese are communists and should be treated with absolute caution (remember Akmal Shaikh?).

  • Comment number 15.

    9. At 09:45am on 13 Jan 2010, thinkbe4 wrote:
    Is this a political solution!!!!!

    Are the bright sparks at Google are thinking of themselves as a Country now?

    [snip]
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Probably yes. Facebook certainly does, and along with Microsoft and Twitter these organisations have more power in the world than most real-world countries. In the 21st century, there will be many electronic wars. This is a minor diplomatic skirmish, but a forerunner of bigger things to come.

  • Comment number 16.

    Does Google run a bank Robert? Or have you been told to pick another part of the business sector?

    Does any of Google's revenue stream pay UK taxes?

  • Comment number 17.

    What a churlish response. Google has a level of information that journalists do not have access to and instead of keeping it secret it is being open with what it knows.

  • Comment number 18.

    What will happen to the Human Rights activists apparently the focus of Google's concern if the search engine and advertising platform withdraws from China?

  • Comment number 19.

    #1 - you're talking nonsense, fortunately others have saved me the trouble of explaining why.

    I applaud Google for taking this stand - I don't think their position is complicated, and I don't think the rights and wrongs of their 2006 decision are really relevant (though I have some sympathy with their argument of the time too as it happens). We have a habit of viewing every corporate action cynically - and that's entirely understandable and exactly what large, particularly American, corporations deserve - most big-shot blue chip Execs would sell their grandmother to make a quarter-end figure - they're certainly more than happy to sell their employees and their company.

    However I am prepared to believe Google have a more functional moral compass than the average Wall Street Wonder - good for them I say - I hope they have the strength to see this through to either of the two conclusions outlined above.

  • Comment number 20.

    "moral imperatives which outweigh the profit-motive should not be as expensive as it might have been"

    China has around 360 million internet users, if Google has a third of that market that's 120 million Google users (assuming that all internet users use a search engine). This is more than the total number of internet users in the UK, France and Spain combined (in millions: 46.7, 40.3, 29.1) - not all of whom use Google. Perhaps the revenue per customer is lower in China than in Europe. Still, with that number of internet users, there has got to be a significant profit motive to keep operating in China, which shouldn't be underestimated.

    A smaller slice of the big pie is still a lot of money.

  • Comment number 21.

  • Comment number 22.

    > Some Google shareholders (those who put a higher premium on profits
    > than on democratic rights) will see this as a commercial example of
    > cutting off your nose to spite your face - because it is not remotely
    > clear how a withdrawal from China by Google would enhance the privacy
    > of Chinese human rights activists.

    We are a civilised society, and we must have lower tolerance for
    anyone who puts a higher premium thier short term goals than on the
    long term interests of the world. That's a basic principle of any
    normal human.

    Lots of issues hang on the principle of altruism. It will require immense
    altruism from everyone to tackle climate change and human rights violations.
    The bankers have demonstrated that they lack altruism, and that is why
    they have to be brought to heal globally.

    Although this move may not directly enhance the privacy of Chinese human
    rights activists, it is the right thing to do - no shareholder, however greedy,
    should act in a disgusting way.

  • Comment number 23.

    Did 'LippyLippo' at 8.56 a.m. mention the term 'Hysteria'?

  • Comment number 24.

    Talking of censorship, I wonder if my blog comment will be approved? :-)

  • Comment number 25.

    Google values market domination and profit.

    They can not get an expected share on either in China. Apparently, the 600 Million profit last year was peanuts to them. No wonder why Steve Ballmer compares Google to Goliath.

    Google now climbs up a high horse and makes a dash for it after being on its knees for the last 3 years.

  • Comment number 26.

    > Like the Wild West, the 'net has become a lawless ungovernable cesspool
    > of technology that makes other Governments and organisations afraid.

    You could say the same thing about telephones. But you don't ban phones
    because prostitutes use them. You could say the same thing about the post
    office. But you don't ban letters because some people post dirty pictures.
    You could say the same thing about cars. But you don't ban cars because
    some people use them as getaway vehicles.

    If it was true that "the 'net has become a lawless ungovernable cesspool
    of technology", then why are you using it right now, to write to
    Robert Peston?

    In short, the Internet is all the things you claim. It's also just
    a way to send messages around. If the messages are nasty, that's not
    really anything to do with Google, is it? It's more to do with those
    who send the messages. People like you and me.

  • Comment number 27.

    Censorship in China is bad but I have no doubt Google's action is for profits in the long term. It must have calculated that leaving China may actually increase their market share in the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Which, on the face of it, is not a logical reaction. Some Google shareholders (those who put a higher premium on profits than on democratic rights) will see this as a commercial example of cutting off your nose to spite your face - because it is not remotely clear how a withdrawal from China by Google would enhance the privacy of Chinese human rights activists."

    And they'd be completely missing the point; this is a major security issue. If Google can't get security right, they have far bigger problems than losing a bit of business in China. As this particular security issue involved numerous 3rd parties, word of it was inevitably going to reach the media. So Google had to make an announcement early on.

    In addition to reporting the security issue, they also need to come up with some sort of "fix". In this case, it seems they're going for a form of diplomacy, and this will certainly get the attention of China's leadership.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm amazed that any self respecting dissident would use googlemail. There are other much more secure options out there.

    Ultimately, if your technology is secure, there should be no need to take action based on attempts to circumvent the security: government agencies which sue people for gaining unauthorised access are missing the point - they should be suing themselves for allowing this unauthorised access.

  • Comment number 31.

    Post 2 raises a good point. There surely can't be much time before someone in the States tries to stop Googles dominance of search and other new areas via an investigation like happened to IBM and Microsoft in the past.

    Bashing China and sucking up to Obama should cover both the right wing Republicans and the President. All this will nicely ensure no investigation in the near future.

    As our cuddly meerkat friend would say "simples".

  • Comment number 32.

    Surely no-one can seriously believe that Google doesn't have an ulterior motive for doing this? Even if they think it's a laudable idea, it is deepest arrogance to believe that they can, or should, effect political change in China. And for those who praise unlimited free speech - think what night have happened if the 1989 uprising in China had 'succeeded'. It would have destabilised the most populous nation on Earth and created a political vacuum. Nature, and politics, abhors a vacuum and the rush to fill it would doubtless have resulted in massive destabilisation, loss of life, and a crippling of China's nascent economy. Whilst nobody like being told what to do, at least China's leaders have the guts to govern, rather than just leave its population to the mercy of big business and billionaire media men.

  • Comment number 33.

    How surprising, another topic and another post from LippyLippo about how he'd like to turn the world into a dictatorship.

    LippyLippo wrote
    "So in our 'enlightened' country, we allow children access to porn, violence, and the dissemination of images and videos of the most vile kind."

    No, we don't.
    Parents may well fail to protect their children from this but that is not the responsibility of the entire nation. It is up to you, and you alone as a parent to take responsibility for your children and this includes taking appropriate action to ensure they do not have free access to the internet and all of the adult or extreme content that is hosted on it.
    Internet filters are available for free; if parents fail to install and use these programs then this is their responsibility, not the nations.
    If parents give their children internet enabled mobile phones then this is their fault, not the nations.


    "the internet has become a sleazy back-alley filled with danger, where you can be robbed, access inappropriate and rubbish information, and see the dark underbelly of modern life."

    Roughly translated, the internet has become just like the real world and if you choose to you can put yourself at risk, access inappropriate and rubbish information, although just like the real world you can choose to stay away from such things and protect yourself by taking the simplest of precautions. If you fail to do so then that is your fault, not the internets or anyone else's.


    "Like the Wild West, the 'net has become a lawless ungovernable cesspool of technology that makes other Governments and organisations afraid."

    Comical and wholly incorrect, only a small fraction of the internet is anything like this, you could just as easily describe the internet as a place where information is shared in such a way that will benefit our entire planet, but of course this doesn't fit with your pre-determined ideas of doom and gloom so we can't have that, can we ? Instead we have to focus on the negative and use it as an excuse to limit the freedoms of the majority of people who use the internet for good.


    "The slightest hint of regulation is met with near hysteria by people who think that absolute freedom is somehow a good thing. It isn't. It's just chaos."

    Absolute freedom has worked for the on-line world very well so far, as soon as you try to regulate it you will stifle innovation, creativity and also allow governments to control the way their people communicate and interact. The problems associated with this level of freedom, or chaos as you like to describe it are far, far better than the problems we'd get from a regulated internet.


    Just for once, try taking responsibility for yourself and your own family and leave the rest of us to do the same instead of continuing to promote censorship and the furthering of the Nanny State.
    You may also want to try living in countries such as China before trying to get their system of censorship and regulations adopted over here.

  • Comment number 34.

    Looks like an Obama retaliation for being snubbed by China's Premier at Copenhagen.

    China is very sensitive to any criticism of its Human Rights record. It's an open wound that the USA will press on if they think China are taking the p**s.

    Part of the phoney war which will end up with protectionist trade policies.

  • Comment number 35.

    Google is actually a major stakeholder in Baidu, the search engine with 60%+ market share in China. So even if Google were to pull the Google search engine, Google itself isn't necessarily pulling out of China.

  • Comment number 36.

    Maybe Google in Chinese says a rude word and they, the Chinese, are just upset?

    Does one software solution work for all?

    Not in my experience.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think Google's implication in its statement is that the Chinese government is linked to these attacks; but they don't want to explicitly accuse them. If that is the case then the logic is more sound - Google has kowtowed to the government and simply been attacked in exchange?

  • Comment number 38.

    The BBC news recently reported ( though i had heard this somewhere before) that there will twenty odd million men without wives because of the male- female birth imbalance in China.

    My first thoughts were that's a hell of a lot of testerone knocking about in one country and my second thoughts were....that's one hell of an army.

    So unless there is a big outbreak of 'gayness' in China, The Chinese government has a problem on it's hands...and so does the rest of the world.

    China worries me, I think the people there are insatiable for knowledge, The world wide web (especially google) are showing them what freedom and the rest of the world has to offer. Maybe this is why google should pull out, The slow boat to China should be reversed to the slow boat to freedom, If to much is given to the Chinese to quickly it could create havoc in the world.

  • Comment number 39.

    Human rights do not ring profit but Copy right does.

    The billions lost by the Music, Film and book industry world wide boosts Google's balance sheet directly.

    They fully understood this when they went to China, they went there to trade but could not get a decent return. They wanted to get out because their business model collapsed

  • Comment number 40.

    Google's statement says "These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers."
    One very easy way that the Chinese can farm information such as email accounts and passwords is by using video games. So called "browser" games put a piece of software on your computer known as a "client". This client can then search for and send back anything it wants. The clients for browser games coming from China are now on tens of millions of western computers. They even encourage you to install it on your work computers!
    The Chinese have a long history of misusing the internet for their own ends. Just research Titan Rain to see some of the nefarious activities they have been up to.

  • Comment number 41.

    Given that one of the underlying causes of the credit crunch and recession was the transfer of Western wealth to China via offshoring mechanisms such as cheap manufacturing and so on and so forth then perhaps its about time we stopped making the Chinese wealthy and us poorer and ban companies from dealing with China until they adopt multi-party politics.

    We all know China won't change its spots until its own people rise up so lets encourage that by making them a lot poorer than they are now.

  • Comment number 42.

    Robert,

    Two points:

    1. Intellectual property
    I think you miss the fact that intellectual property at the heart of the culture and global success of the Bay Area of California. There are reports that Chinese hackers have been trying to access the source code of around 20 of Silicon Valley's leading firms. For technology companies this represents the crown jewels and cannot be tolerated on any basis - loss of this intellectual property would represent far more than a nose. Google knows the value of its intellectual property and is extremely secretive about its data centres and how they work - and probably regrets setting up operations in China, where IP protection has long been a serious problem and concern, particularly given the often dubious boundaries between the State and the private sector.

    2. Protection of core monopoly
    As many others have highlighted, Google probably realises it made a mistake going into China from a PR point of view. Google will increasingly focus on its image, as it seeks to prevent regulatory reviews of its search monopoly and its tax avoidance measures. Google's dominance of search marketing is massive and its charging methods are opaque.

    Already France is threatening special taxes on internet advertising, and other countries, when faced with an overseas monopoly which does not pay tax during a period of economic recession and government deficits, will soon follow suit.

    How long can UK plc tolerate Google paying no VAT or corporation tax here while taking £1.6 billion out of the domestic economy? Most marketing and media people loathe Google's dominance which puts the old Yellow Pages and ITV monopolies to shame. Making matters worse, Google seems to recruit personnel who are often amazingly arrogant and lacking in interpersonal skills - think double-glazing salespeople with brains. Google will be broken up. All Google can do is seek to delay the inevitable.

  • Comment number 43.

    #32 LippyLippo

    Hear, Hear!

    BTW, did you know that most of China's senior government figures have engineering backgrounds?

    Also, did you know that China aggressively protects the separation of its retail and investment banking systems.

    Engineers tend to exhibit stronger moral fibre...unlike those City types...as was evidenced yesterday in the Select Committee meeting in the HoP.

  • Comment number 44.

    I feel sorry for Google
    Why couldn't anyone have told them that China operated a repressive regime in the first place?
    Just think, all that outlay, investment etc... wasted!
    Poor guys

  • Comment number 45.

    Re LippyLippo's post #1 and #32:
    As an ethnic Chinese I totally agree with you. My initial pride and enjoyment of British/EU citizenhood have well and truly been eroded to dismay and downright shame amidst the cesspool culture - when governments relinquish their duty to efficiently govern for capricious control; all in the name of liberal pluralism, the recreational internet being a prime microcosm. A little self-introspection in comparing the high-falutin lip service indulged in by western democracies and Google with the de facto self-serving malaise throughout society, and I know where I'd prefer to bring up my kids if I had my time again.

  • Comment number 46.

    Google was losing search wars in China to Baidu. With search, it's all about advertising. And it rounds up. In other words, Baidu is making virtually 100% of the profits, while Google is making almost nothing. They may even be losing money in China, like Microsoft's Bing is in the West.

    So, Google was going to quit, anyway. By staging this stunt, they look like the hero. It takes heat off their back regarding privacy concerns.

  • Comment number 47.

    It's an plausible move whatever reason behind it. Imagine a world where all decision makings are based purely on economy reasons! Would be interesting to see what happen next.

  • Comment number 48.

    It was very regrettable that Google consented to censorship in the first place, but they are surely to be applauded for this move.

    It seems to me that, because of the commercial opportunities that China offers, western politicians often soft-pedal or skip over the true nature of this one-party state - we'd hear a lot more about this if China was small or poor.

    So, well done Google.

  • Comment number 49.

    Comments 29 and 30 do not understand the issue. This wasn't Google being breached. If you inadvertently give your front door key to a crook you may end up burgled. The same goes for mail account details. If they were accidentally given away that's not a fault with Google.

    If true, 28 is outrageous! If a comment has stood all day and had 200 recommendations then it should stand.

  • Comment number 50.

    33 G_J_R
    Excellent blog. 100% with you.
    Have I missed something, but I can't find a reference to banking.....
    TM StH

  • Comment number 51.

    #30 Once again - It was a phishing attack. Social engineering and dodgy software to scam passwords. If you give up your password then there is little Google can do.

    In addition the Chinese government requires net access client to be installed by law. The technology allows filtering on an individual computer level. The software also has reported security issues and potentially gives the government an IN to your PC (Think stop and search of your computer on demand).

    "as of 1 July 2009, manufacturers must ship machines to be sold in mainland China with the Green Dam software, and that manufacturers are required to report the number of machines shipped with the software to the government"

  • Comment number 52.

    # 35 Richard

    "Google is actually a major stakeholder in Baidu, the search engine with 60%+ market share in China"

    I don't think this is fact. I believe Google only ever held 2% of Baidu stock and sold this in 2006.

    IMO it is never really clear cut whether the principle of free speach outweighs that of the rights to live in accordance with other morals such as, respect, tolerance, truthfulness etc. To me some censorship of vile, spiteful and hate ridden views will always be necessary; however imo an openness in discussing issues tends for the truthful or moral side of the argument to prevail?

  • Comment number 53.

    Google's decision is only "puzzling logic" if you dismissed Google's stated reason for going into China in the first place as mere Public Relations flim-flam, and think it was nothing more than a regular commercial decision.

    If you believe what Google originally said, it makes perfect sense.

    Google originally said going into China was the outcome of a difficult balance of pros and cons amongst its core values.

    In favour of going into China, it believes making its search engine available would advance free speech in China, and might encourage the Chinese authorities to become less repressive.

    Against this was weighed the fact that it would have to submit to censorship of its Chinese search engine, Google.cn

    Google's judgement was that on balance it was better to be in China than not, even though they weren't comfortable about it.

    Now we have a couple of new "cons". Firstly, there's the hacking. Secondly, their hope that China would be persuaded to loosen up has been disappointed; if anything things have got worse.

    So Google is going back to its original decision in the light of new information. It's giving China the opportunity to give it new reasons to stay (although surely few people really expect China to react positively to this) but absent something new, it can no longer justify submitting to the Chinese authorities in terms of its core values.

    Nothing puzzling about that. You just believe its too good (as in, too "not evil") to be true.

  • Comment number 54.

    UK VAT Is raised on UK adword transactions. What's the issue. Some UK banks will sell you an insurance policy over the counter and offshore the insurance company (as a fully owned subsidiary) to avoid UK cooperation tax. Call centres operate out of India to that would never comply with UK employment law but suck jobs from the UK. Google are a US company selling a product into the UK as such they pay UK VAT and US corporation tax. Simples.

  • Comment number 55.

    I see very little difference in what China do, and what our Government are installing on our own system at present ???

  • Comment number 56.

    Robert this article is all speculation and titilation, no news here, please go and do something more useful with your talents where you know what is actually going on

  • Comment number 57.

    #45. ShirleyWoo wrote:

    "As an ethnic Chinese I totally agree with you. My initial pride and enjoyment of British/EU citizenhood have well and truly been eroded to dismay and downright shame amidst the cesspool culture - when governments relinquish their duty to efficiently govern for capricious control; all in the name of liberal pluralism, the recreational internet being a prime microcosm. A little self-introspection in comparing the high-falutin lip service indulged in by western democracies and Google with the de facto self-serving malaise throughout society, and I know where I'd prefer to bring up my kids if I had my time again."

    How deliciously ironic that you use a public forum to express your disgust at the society in which you now live and the government under which you live.

    Try that in China and see what happens...

  • Comment number 58.

    "those who put a higher premium on profits than on democratic rights"...
    Do such people exist? I suppose they do... But how do they sleep at night??

  • Comment number 59.

    @ShirleyWoo

    I live in China and am bringing my children up here by choice, but only because my children are white. If you were to live in China as a Chinese person you would have to get over the fact that your children would be humiliated and beaten on a regular basis in school by their teacher, forced to do pointless drills on a daily basis, taught never to actually use their brains but rather memorise everything and start receiving homework at the age of four and the pressure of exams starting at seven. Does that really sound like the kind of situation you would actually want your children to be in?

    On the google side of things....I hope they stay and fight for the people of China...they can make as big an impact of any.

  • Comment number 60.

    Whilst the morals of Google on entering the Chinese market can be questioned this decision has to be applauded, it's rare for any country to criticize China these days so maybe we need Google to show them how to do it. As for how this works out is another matter, the government of China isn't known for flexibility.

  • Comment number 61.

    Robert Pestons puzzling notion seems to be that, when it comes to business, logic and profit should trump values – humanistic values, values concerning what constitutes fair business practice, and values governing just how far a company is willing to compromise decency in order to make a buck. I’m writing from Taiwan where there is a general knowledge of how the mainland Chinese operate towards Western businesses and where it’s perceived that most Westerner businesses don’t understand this. I laud Google’s brave, principled, and wise decision. If more American and European corporations knew what was good for them they would quickly follow Google’s example.

  • Comment number 62.

    Google should never have been in China in the first place. But perhaps now they are pulling out (even if for dubious motives) they might be able to lose the asterisk from their motto "Don't be evil*".


    * Terms and conditions apply

  • Comment number 63.

    #42 #52

    In "fairness" to googles tax planning, their activities are quite legal, they effectively have the choice to channel advertising revenue through the UK where thay pay 28% corporation tax, or through Ireland where they pay 12.5% corporation tax, they chose the latter.

    In essence there is no real difference here from the 90%+ bankers receiving hugh bonuses who in a normal years pay little tax from being non dom, and the majority of of the UK's highest paid sports and entertaining stars who are non dom or "live" in tax havens, or the vast majority of multinational firms who also tax plan. If i remember rightly U2 and Bono talk of internet firms profiting from copyright infringement (possibly correctly) but moved U2's publishing arm from Ireland to be in Holland with the press release stating :"Like any other business, U2 operates in a tax-efficient manner." (again a totally legal thing to do)

    Don't get me wrong I think a tightening up of all tax avoidance methods is the issue and imo would be a very equitable thing to do.

  • Comment number 64.

    @LippyLippo:

    "So in our 'enlightened' country, we allow children access to porn,
    violence, and the dissemination of images and videos of the most vile kind."

    No WE don't, parents do. If parents are willing to let their kids look at that then that's entirely upto the parents, no one else. If parents do not want their kids to view such information on the internet, then they should monitor them or prevent them using it at all.

    "Far from being an information superhighway to Knowledgeville, the internet has become a sleazy back-alley filled with danger, where you can be robbed, access inappropriate and rubbish information, and see the dark underbelly of modern life. You wouldn't do this in the real world, so why is it allowed in the virtual world?"

    Are you really suggesting that it's impossible to be robbed, impossible to access sleaze and inappropriate and rubbish information in the real world? If so, I suggest you actually take a step outside, as you'll sadly find a world that resembles the internet much more closely than you seem to believe. But here's the key, just like the real world, the internet has a lot of good stuff too. If you choose to put yourself in a position to get robbed, if you choose to delve into sleazy areas of the net and if you access rubbish information then that's your choice, why are you blaming everyone else for a choice you have clearly made?

    The absolute irony of it all is that if the world was to follow your proposals and go down the route of censorship and oppression as in China that you wouldn't be able to make such comments that dissent from the mainstream view in the first place.

    But then, maybe that wouldn't be a problem for you, as you seem to feel bad choices that you yourself make are everyone elses fault but yours, so having a dictatorship think for you so that you don't have to think for yourself ever is presumably your ideal situation?

    If that's the case, why not move to China? Oh, but don't come home crying when you find you can't actually even get to the BBC's comments section because China has blocked it again of course as they have done previously.

  • Comment number 65.

  • Comment number 66.

    In response to #57:
    That's precisely what I plan to do this year. It gives no joy to be so disenchanted with western Europe in general but UK in particular; I don't get my jollies by posting - it's no substitute for living. In a well-run sovereign state I will have no cause to feel so incrementally disillusioned as the last 13 years. You see, I vote with my feet and left China many decades ago for the same reason I'm emigrating now.

  • Comment number 67.

    #59 not me wrote:

    '...as a Chinese person you would have to get over the fact that your children would be humiliated and beaten on a regular basis in school by their teacher'

    -----------------------

    Geddaway!

    Catholic priests and nuns have been doing that in schools here for centuries!!!

  • Comment number 68.

    It is strange that people think that the Chinese state is about human rights or individual freedom. It is a state with an underlying ideology that is Marxist/Leninist and that it is the group/community/mass that is the defining principle when any social or economic policy is considered. Anything that gets in the way of that principle is not for consideration.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ ShirleyWoo

    Let's not kid ourselves, if you'd posted a similar themed post regarding China on a Chinese web-site then you'd be expecting a knock on the door from the local communist party representatives any time now and if you're lucky you'd be returned to your family after a few days of questioning.

    If you were unlucky you'd end up like some of the people mentioned in the links below;

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0922/1224254988279.html

    http://www.student-direct.co.uk/2009/10/arrested-by-chinese-police-never-charged-and-not-heard-of-again/

    http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/news/article_1395758.php/Number_of_Chinese_political_prisoners_in_2007_&quothighest_since_1999%22

    We may have problems in Europe but compared to the dictatorship in China Europe looks like an absolute paradise and the freedoms we enjoy are worlds apart.


    @ Cav

    I posted my comment at about 10 o'clock yesterday morning; it was published at about 10:30 and was still at the top of the recommendations page at 11 o'clock last night but had been rejected and removed by 10 o'clock this morning.
    This isn't an isolated incident and, as we can see above, my comment regarding this has already been referred to the moderators and is no longer visible.

  • Comment number 70.

    One of many issues with China. The US has stated that it will not let human rights get into the way of doing business with China. The "free market" business approach of fnations has built China. No human rights, no real legal system, no enforced labor or wage laws, etc. The business of business and the influence that big business and banking (who finance these projects) has created a system where the individual is of no importance and only profit matters. The imbalance in influence twoard the business community and their always seeking the cheapest labor has lead to the economic decline of most Western countries. As manufacturing has shifted to cheap unregulated labor pools the West has been left with banking and services. The global economy and the promises to rasie the standards for everyone was and remains a complete lie. If the West is to maintain leadership they must take positions that protect the people and economies of their own countries and not kow-tow to banking and investment interest and their code of only money matters. The quality of life is declining and this has been a result of the Western governmental policies in Asia. Unfortunately, the governments of the West spie on their own citizens as well and thus an argument to China is hollow. When the West was in confrontation with Russia the battle was with matching education and technology. In the battle with China the matching is with levels of corruption. All societies die from within first.

  • Comment number 71.

    I don't find Google's logic puzzling, at all, but I understand why a reporter would be confused. Google probably looks at things this way:

    1. Google's motto "Don't be evil" is central to their business core, and potential customers won't use a information search engine if they think the company providing the service is censoring the results. That's why I don't use Bing - I know Microsoft censors results that cast their products in an unfavorable light. Given this, there's no way Google can do business in China and make money.

    2. Baidu's success over Google is understandable in this light, especially when you add one more fact: any Chinese citizen that uses Google over the "official search engine of the People's Republic" attracts the attention of the network police. It's amazing that Google is even able to capture 30% of the searching market, and no doubt troubling to the Chinese government.

    I think this is a good decision, and savvy investors will understand the reasoning.

  • Comment number 72.

    It's worth pointing out of course that Chinese censorship of Google extends beyond holding back search results; many Google run services are blocked entirely including youtube and blogspot (at least when I was there July last year). I'm undecided whether this is a financial/political/mixture of both decision but obviously the more services blocked by "The Great Firewall of China" the more it detracts from possible revenue.

    I don't pretend to know everything about the Chinese communal mind, but the government is well and truly ingrained into the lives of Chinese people and has great support from them. Most of us see any kind of censorship as an attack on our civil liberties, the Chinese (from my experience) see it as the government protecting them and itself from any lies and unfriendly propaganda which could bring harm to the country.

    Right and wrong is an entirely subjective concept. Be brought up in one environment and you'll hold one particular set of ideologies and morals, be brought up in another and they may be radically different.

  • Comment number 73.

    To all you deluded fools on here who believe there is democracy and the rule of law in the UK...

    “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    The evidence...

    MP's expenses scandal
    Bank bailouts
    Banker's bonuses
    etc.

    ...and not one criminal conviction to date.

    I rest my case!

  • Comment number 74.

    38. At 11:34am on 13 Jan 2010, AudenGrey wrote:
    This comment has been referred to the moderators


    Just returned from lunch to find I have been jocked off ! I can't remember saying anything that broke the house rules, so I am disappointed.

    Ironically I popped into Waterstones in Piccadilly where I saw that Mr Peston's book is in the three for two for section.

    looks like we are all being pushed out the door Robert !

  • Comment number 75.

    I don't think there's any conspiracy theory here or twisted logic. Clearly the CyberCops at Google have been tracking these attempted hacks back to Chinese government subnets. Maybe the gmail story is a cover story for the actual theft of intellectual property, whatever that may be. Either way, I expect Google are pulling out of the country by decommissioning its local servers and networks and then firewalling any further accesses from China.

  • Comment number 76.

    Interesting article Robert, I've enjoyed reading your material for a couple of years now as part of this blog.

    Being of mixed race, Chinese/Scottish, I'm always curious to the reaction to what the Chinese do in this country. For me, if Google want to withdraw from China because the Chinese authorities are actively trying to get access to information about dissidents, then that is fair enough. I don't know if any promises were given (I would think unlikely) from the Chinese government on them not doing certain things, but if they were, Google were a bit naive to think that what has happened wouldn't happen.

    Unfortunately alot of the comments here fail to understand the Chinese mentality and the belief that every person in the world views democracy as the preferential system to live in. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I personally am advocating the free-market communist system which exists in China. But my point is along the lines of #72, when you grow up with a system, and as long it isn't an abusive system to all then that system will not be viewed as being incorrect. Not everyone feels oppressed in China, indeed the vast majority of people don't. If we had to live under those rules, we would but from my experience those I have met from China do not and view our system of democracy curiously but also notice deficiencies with our system (say for example, poor voter turnout or the press having the freedom and the power to change the mood of a nation on the whim of an editor or owner).

    Anyway back to Google and the other thing which is curious about their statement is that another common thing about the Chinese mentality in China and elsewhere, is that they don't like people interfering in their affairs. So what Google may perceive as taking the moral high-ground and threatening China to withdraw will I would imagine make the Chinese more than happy to show them the door to the outside of the Great Firewall.

  • Comment number 77.

    73. At 1:51pm on 13 Jan 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:
    To all you deluded fools on here who believe there is democracy and the rule of law in the UK...

    Very good post, can I add a some:

    The evidence...
    MP's expenses scandal
    Bank bailouts
    Banker's bonuses &
    Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
    Dr David Kelly's supposed suicide
    Boom and bust have been abolished

  • Comment number 78.

    The barriers are starting to go up, protectionism is the next step, trade wars will likely follow and the banks will be in the thick of it.

  • Comment number 79.

    1. At 08:56am on 13 Jan 2010, LippyLippo wrote:

    "Maybe the Chinese have the right idea... Google, like every other major net operator, simply wash their hands of this regulation and allow anybody access to anything... So in our 'enlightened' country, we allow children access to porn, violence, and the dissemination of images and videos of the most vile kind... the internet has become a sleazy back-alley filled with danger, where you can be robbed, access inappropriate and rubbish information, and see the dark underbelly of modern life. You wouldn't do this in the real world, so why is it allowed in the virtual world?"

    To be frank I think this is a stream of ill-thought-out nonsense LippyLippo.

    For a start the ills you have listed ARE available in the real world. And if they are illegal in the real world they're almost certainly illegal in the virtual world. And in the virtual world the perpetrators are arguably easier to detect and trace. Note the recent nursery abuse case in which the perpetrators committed crimes both on- and off-line... but it was their online activity that was detected and led to their arrests.

    Yes there are dangers on the internet and there are controls too. Children need protecting online just as surely as they do off. Most parents would not let children below a certain age wander just anywhere on the streets at will and they should not (and mostly don't in my experience) let them surf the internet unguarded either.

    Blaming Google if you stumble into trouble online is a bit like blaming your satnav if it directs you to a street where there's illegal prostitution or drug dealing activity. Or blaming BT if your phone book carries the number for a trader that rips you off. It is the job of the authorities to catch these people and shut them down. It is the job of parents to parent. It is the job of Google to direct you to the most relevant site for your search query. Note that Google makes its money from advertising which is subject to laws and controls just as ads elsewhere are.

    You are also missing the central point. This is not about China seeking to limit access to pornography or online fraud. Google is reacting to activity and restrictions designed to suppress human rights activists in China.

    If you don't like 'rubbish information' online then think before you post. Otherwise you are simply adding to it.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ DebtJuggler who wrote:

    "BTW, did you know that most of China's senior government figures have engineering backgrounds?

    Engineers tend to exhibit stronger moral fibre..."

    So there's nothing questionable about the morality of those that suppress human rights then? Hmm...

  • Comment number 81.

    I am amused at all the comments deriding China's human rights record. "People in glass houses........"

  • Comment number 82.

    #8 Robiati wrote:

    'So there's nothing questionable about the morality of those that suppress human rights then? Hmm...'

    ------------------------------------------

    What's more important the rights of the group or the rights of the individual?

    How did civilisations (the Chinese started these BTW) ever get by before 'YOOMAN RIGHTS' were invented???

    I don't think you have ever travelled or work in the far east (or for a far eastern company).

    Re-read Philip Wong's post #76 and and 1voiceinacrowd's post #72 more carefully.

    Try not to be brainwashed by the western (read anarchic/free market/Lib-Dem/Neocon) controlled media....Chinese communists don't eat their children!

  • Comment number 83.

    I have read that China goes about its business of censorship very seriously. Not just black-listing sites it doesnt like the look of and compulsory filtering deals with Google etc, but creating gateways to pick up key words in emails and texts in/out of the country, computers to be retailed with Government-branded fileters and there has been coincidental interference of shortwave broadcasts from outside. Much criticism above. But, Australia under the anti child porn/crime and family friendly policy are introducing similar ploys. How long before we have a British Board of Search Engine, Web site, Url, Text, Email,Blog and Forum Censorship. Staffed ofcourse by indepdendent government-appointed individuals/grandees, carefully limited by statute and right of appeal given to the disaffected ( no offence to our great moderators and GCHQ ). All coordinated by International Conventions. Maybe China is providing the West with a lead.

  • Comment number 84.

    i'm a Chinese,and my English isn't very good.But I do know that China is a country without human rights,i really want to change the fact.

  • Comment number 85.

    Interesting blog Robert. The issue of our so called free Western society versus the repressive regime in China is somewhat dated. The frightening thing is the speed over the last ten years in the ability of the our state to eavesdrop on you. This article focuses on the Internet and Google but all digital media gives others the possibility to keep an eye on you. George Orwell would instantly recognise some aspects of our society, albeit 26 years later than predicted!

  • Comment number 86.

    DO TODAY'S PEOPLE CARE ENOUGH ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS TO BOYCOTT CHINESE GOODS, BECAUSE THAT IS THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD AFFECT CHINA.
    IS THERE ANY POINT IN DOING THAT, WHO WOULD HURT WHO MORE?
    ARE WE ANY BETTER THAN THEM ANYWAY?
    What is a human right without a job?
    Could our economy survive without better, cheaper Chinese goods. Would our exports to China crash?
    Would our currency be made to collapse?
    Would our economy, which is half-based on rebranding Chinese goods, collapse?
    Can we afford to stand up to these bullies?
    Can we afford not to stand up to these bullies?

    IT'S ALL GETTING A BIT ORWELLIAN.
    THE WAR IN EURASIA WITH THE MUSLIM RADICALS IS GIVING WAY TO A DIFFERENT ONE WITH THE CHINESE ESTABLISHMENT.

    EXCEPT THESE ONES ARE INDISPENSABLE AT MAKING STUFF, THEY ARE A LOT SCARIER, A LOT MORE NUMEROUS, A LOT SMARTER ,CERTAINLY NOT MADDER , A LOT RICHER AND WE OWE THEM GAZILLIONS.

    O-HO SAYS OH-DEAR!

  • Comment number 87.

    Google's logic may well be puzzling.
    But think about it.
    Google is used to doing pretty well what it wants to.
    It certainly has the money.
    So what constrains it?

    Its own morality to a cetain extent. And that is it.

    So it has now come up against the world's biggest exporter.
    What to do?

    Withdraw whilst it thinks about it.
    Suddenly there is no puzzlement.

  • Comment number 88.

    Robert,

    This is merely 'making money vs morals' a dilemna every Capitalist faces.

    Should I shaft my fellow man to make a buck - should I condone the abuse of humans by the people who pay me?

    Decisions, decisions, decsisions....

    Lets get back to the Economy Robert - we know Google will survive the recession - but what about the fact that 2010 will be the "Year of the Asian airline bailout"

    .....and they thought it was all over....

  • Comment number 89.

    #73 perhaps you should spend a few years in China or Russia to notice the difference between a totalitarian state & the UK. As Churhcill rightly stated, democracy isn't a very good system, it's just better than the alternatives. The case you are resting is rubbish: apart from the MPs expenses - still under investigation - none of what you mention is illegal under UK law. You may not like it. It is morally reprehensible. But it isn't against the law. The UK is far from perfect, but there are very few countries I'd rather live in - not least because the law generally acts to preserve the righst of the individual & we have Human rights legislation, etc to bolster that.

  • Comment number 90.

    86. At 5:16pm on 13 Jan 2010, onward-ho wrote:

    DO TODAY'S PEOPLE CARE ENOUGH ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS TO BOYCOTT CHINESE GOODS, BECAUSE THAT IS THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD AFFECT CHINA.
    IS THERE ANY POINT IN DOING THAT, WHO WOULD HURT WHO MORE?
    ARE WE ANY BETTER THAN THEM ANYWAY?
    What is a human right without a job?
    Could our economy survive without better, cheaper Chinese goods. Would our exports to China crash?
    Would our currency be made to collapse?
    Would our economy, which is half-based on rebranding Chinese goods, collapse?
    Can we afford to stand up to these bullies?
    Can we afford not to stand up to these bullies?

    IT'S ALL GETTING A BIT ORWELLIAN.
    THE WAR IN EURASIA WITH THE MUSLIM RADICALS IS GIVING WAY TO A DIFFERENT ONE WITH THE CHINESE ESTABLISHMENT.

    EXCEPT THESE ONES ARE INDISPENSABLE AT MAKING STUFF, THEY ARE A LOT SCARIER, A LOT MORE NUMEROUS, A LOT SMARTER ,CERTAINLY NOT MADDER , A LOT RICHER AND WE OWE THEM GAZILLIONS.

    O-HO SAYS OH-DEAR!

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Well said Onward - in relation to Gordon Brown - he got us into the current 'mess' with China!

  • Comment number 91.

    #86
    I can see you are losing sleep. Listen to Digby Jones, Baroness Ashton, Lord Mandelson amongst others. Whilst the Chinese make the widgets, establish a means to distribute their wealth across their land, create social safety nets and grow their home-markets, we get clever and become the value-added transformation, bio and green-tech and creative-industries economy. We culturally engage by educating their best and they become embibed with our values so that they respect our intellectual property rights. Meanwhile we create some space for them on the IMF/World Bank knowing they are tied into the dollar and need to sell into the US and EU markets.They'll start funding our imports with their credit again. Chill out and dont worry about their rare-earth element monopolies, commodities exploitation and purchase of manufacturing know-how.An enlarged EU and a new confident Obama-US will hold their power in check. Simple.

  • Comment number 92.

    The Twilight of the 'Amerikan' Dream

    Messages such as those from Shirley Woo are right on target. Most Westerners think that the world revolves around their so-called democratic institutions. However if one carefully examines the intellectual climate here in the United States; they will quickly realize that there is increasing much less freedom as each day passes. The main difference here in the US is that much more sophisticated methods are used to interfere with people and their activities. Unfortunately since most management positions here in the United states are increasingly being filled with Academic professionals who have very little skills in the engineering and hard sciences areas. I would challenge almost any of the so-called policy-makers here in the United States to manage the social and economic problems which the Chinese Government faces. They would quickly find that they would have neither the skills or the temperament to do a better job.

    While people in glass house should not cast stones; the United States through its arrogance does not hesitate to cast bombs and bullets indiscriminately throughout the world; of course never considering the civil or human rights of the victims of collateral damage which they create by the tens of thousands. The typical Chinese citizen is so far superior to the typical human parasite which lives in the State of New York (where I live) here in the United States, that any comparison is almost laughable. Chinese students at the Middle School level are so far advanced when they move to the United States when one compares the nonexistent skills of American born College students. I taught in the University at the graduate level here in the United States for five years and can attest and show evidence of these facts.

    Amerikan Culture has begun the decline from its zenith during the Mid-20th Century and it will only get worse from here on in. The only question will be how long the edifice will remain standing before it collapses from the weight of its worthless money; degenerate work ethics; and a culture which values human parasitism as a virtue over hard work or productive activity. That Shirley Woo will emigrate back to China does not surprise me. I to intend to leave this cesspool of Cultural debauchery as soon as I retire; and I was born here in the United states. When enough of us leave (by voting with our feet) and take our hard earned resources with us; Amerikans may one day wake up and find that they will finally know what it is like to live in a Third-world country. Only they will have no where to go, without skills or even the ability to speak their own mother-tongue; they will find out what it is like to be unwanted and unable to support themselves.

    Just remember it was only in the late 19th to 20th Centuries; that the Amerikan and British government fought a war with the Chinese in order to force them to buy Opium. And now the Human 'scum' politicians who represent the United States Government have the gall to send their military agents into a sovereign state in South America and kill people who are providing drugs in order to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the decadent Amerikan public for those same drugs.

    I hope I live long enough to see the people of the United States pay the price for such arrogance, when their system finally collapses under the weight of arrogance; racism; parasitism, and corruption. And their promotion of a decadent culture which in reality only provides a different but albeit more sophisticated form of state-sanctioned control of their everyday lives.

    Gerry

  • Comment number 93.

    I do not agree with the human rights violations in China, nor with their freedom of speech issues. However, I feel that it is China's right to run their country the way that they want to.

    The Chinese are a very proud people who will always do what they want to do. Most Americans have no interest in getting involved in their affairs. Live and let live.

    I do feel that Americans need to rely more on the USA for our products. This is not a diss toward China, but rather a love for the USA and our people supporting ourselves.

    As for Google, it has to follow USA laws, but it is not the USA. It is simply another corporation. China has the right to do business or not do business with them as they want. Google does not represent the USA.

    I suspect the main reason behind Google leaving China is that they don't want to mess with the Chinese govt. and the Chinese activists conflicts(taking sides.) Perhaps they feel they are putting people in danger or that there is a potentially large lawsuit. Also, they are not one of the top search engines in China and probably never will be there.

    But to each, his own. As I said, China has the right to run their country the way they want. I have nothing but love for all the people in this world, the ones who do good for others.

    Wish we could help everyone, but we can only help the ones we can. Peace out.

  • Comment number 94.

    82. At 3:56pm on 13 Jan 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:

    "What's more important the rights of the group or the rights of the individual?"

    ..............................................

    "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" Mr Spock

    If only this was remembered more often....

  • Comment number 95.

    The poster Gerry claims he knows the USA because he lives in New York. New York, while super-populated, is just one state. You cannot say you know Americans or the USA if you only get to know people from one city in one state. That is only a swatch of the USA. We are a large country.

    Besides that, if you look for the bad in the USA, you will find bad. If you look for the good in the USA, you will find good. Gerry's description of America is his personal description. I think it says more about him than it does the USA. Sometimes it is more about one's motives/agenda/personal feeling than it is about the truth.

    Personally, I don't have any respect for people who come to the USA and complain about it. People like that don't belong here and they should not be considered American citizens because they do not represent us.
    True Americans love their country through thick and thin. As the great American writer Mark Twain wrote, "Support your country all the time, but support your leaders only when they deserve it." I did not like George Bush, but I continued to love my country just the same. For true American citizens, we love the USA with all our hearts.

    If you do not love the USA, then you should not live there. Enough said.

  • Comment number 96.

    #1 lippy lippo:

    You say: "Google aren't doing this for the good of society. They aren't risking a huge profit loss - they already have billions. They won't suffer."

    But two sentences later you say:
    "All they care about is profit."

    You are contradicting yourself. But then most people who want to impose their idea on the reat of the world usually do.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    @ LippyLippo

    Its a shame your comment has pride of place at the start of this thread. Just to quote your first sentence:

    "Maybe the Chinese have the right idea. For far too long, the Internet has been worshipped as some kind of demigod, free from the inconvenient shackles of law and regulation. "

    This has nothing to do with Google or other internet companies not respecting law or regulation. They all follow law and regulation, as defined by the governments of the day.

    However they also argue that human rights, including freedom of speech, expression etc are respected. What the Chinese govt is accused of here is a violation of people's privacy and private expression. They are accused of not doing it within the boundaries of the law.

    Google made a decision to do the China deal initially. This may have been right, it may have been wrong. That decision is open to criticism. However I don't think this decision can be criticised on the basis that Google wants to 'wash their hands of regulation'. Like most companies, they are more than happy to comply with regulation which respects the freedom of individuals, and equality before the law. What the Chinese government appears to be implicated in (and I can't say if it is true or not), is the targetting of specific individuals for their political beliefs, and the attempted access of their personal information through the Google servers.

    You then say "Will they be happy if the information 'freedom' that they desire leads to unrest and death?". Unbelievable. How do Google's stated aims of 'making available the world's information' equate to unrest and death? Since when did a desire to disseminate information equate to anything other than the education of the people?

    If the people then decide to protest, and the government choose to oppress/imprison/attack these individuals, then it is not the fault of the entities who made new information available. It is the fault of the oppressive regime who persecuted dissenting voices.

    To be clear here, I don't think the current Chinese government can be blamed for Tiananmen. However if the implications of Google's statement is believed, they can be blamed for a pre-meditated infringement of certain human rights. The Iranian government sought to clamp down on Youtube etc to prevent the dissemination of political opinion recently. The CHinese government may be doing the same. The fault lies there, not with a company providing a neutral search engine which allows access to the biggest mine of information in the world.

    Finally, I can sympathise with an earlier poster who spoke about having friends within Google, and the fact that the 'Don't be Evil' motto is more than just corporate rhetoric. I also have had experience with the company, and can say that it is way of thinking which runs throughout the bloodline of the company. Sure, it has inevitably been challenged by the need to please shareholders and maximise products, but it is still a way of thinking which exists in all levels of the company.

  • Comment number 99.

    Lucy,

    I agree with you; but apparently you are not thinking about what I said. When enough of us productuive and creative types start voting with our feet by leaving, and taking our wealth with us; the question will not revolve around 'loving it or leaving it', but the very survival of the increasingly parasitic population (I include those on welfare; disability; fat government pensions; and such) whose membership is growing exponentially in the United States. All of the wealth in the world could not pay for this group at its current rate of growth. I strongly support what our founding fathers had to say regarding the proper role of governments in daily American life; but today this is not the case; the main role of government today is to literally steal from some to pay for the rest. This type of behavior cannot sustain itself and it is people like you (assuming you are not the beneficiary of parasitic transfer payments) who will suffer the most when the inevitable occurs. The Amerikan system today depends almost exclusively on the support of foreign investors. When this is not the case any longer, the game will end quickly as there is not enough money in th world to bail out the Amerikan system if they really had to pay back their creditors. In most cultures in the past, one of the worst sins was that of hubris, and 'love it or leaveit' isthe mark of hubris and arrogance.

    Gerry

  • Comment number 100.

    I had my head bitten off on CNN when I typed that Google simply has too much stuff: i.e. blogger, Gmail, You Tube, but they do and a monopoly commission should be set up to reduce their monopoly over the internet. Either that or the monopoly commission should reduce their global reach as a company. I know, it sounds naive, but it needs saying. Google simply has too much property. It will be much better for all of us if Google pulls out of China, lets other companies have a turn. It will help the planet, us as consumers: the market will be fairer and freer as other companies will be allowed a turn making way for more choice, for example, with search engines web video and other products Google offer. But you hardly hear any complaints in the media about Google and other large software companies along these lines.

 

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