Google’s Return to China: Seeking Clarity

Information is power, and information, to most people of the world is the internet. For most, this starts with a Google Search. In 2010 Google exited China, due to a massive hack by the Chinese government into Google servers. Now, beckoned by the call for making money, Google is again rethinking China. Can Google stand by its ethics of “Do no Harm” while working with the Chinese Government? There will be some compromizes required.

Chinese Censorship
Censorship in China come in two flavours: 1) Government imposed and 2) Third party companies that offer the service doing self-censorship. These two work hand in hand. If the third party is not sufficiently robust enough for the CCP, the CCP slaps the company with a huge fine and censure. This is obviously not ideal for the company. Every single large Chinese IT company has been the target of a CCP campaign, most very recently. As Chinese President Xi Jinping has mandated, all people and companies will put the CCP first, at all times. This includes Chinese IT companies. If Google wishes to play in Chinese space they will have to abide by the CCP rules as well.

What Google Should Expect in China
To think that Google will get some preferential treatment by the CCP would be a sad mistake. No company has not witnessed the wrath of the CCP. For exsample, recently Tencent, who makes video games, has not been able to obtain a video game license from the CCP, due to a moratorium, and has had to sit on its hands while the CCP mulls its next move. Western companies are never under this type of strict government control. For China this is by design.

To think that Google will somehow outsmart or out-tech the Chinese Government is also ridiculous. The CCP has near infinite resources, and even against the great Google, has in the past triumphed. There is no way that Google will be able to offer content that the CCP does not explicitly approve. No back doors, no movement in human rights, none of this Google will be able to push forward. Further, in 2010 Google was hacked, code was implanted to spy on Chinese dissidents, all under Google’s nose and on Google servers. Google should expect more of the same. The CCP is very smart, smarter than Google.

From the CCP viewpoint it is not that an international IT company was hacked, but that a company doing business in China was made to follow the lead of the CCP, as it should, and that is a good and ethical thing to do. International law says otherwise. That the CCP did not tell Google is of no consequence, as the ends justify the means.

To be clear, Google, like all other Chinese IT companies that publish content, will need to abide by CCP censorship rules in two ways: direct CCP censorship, or self-censorship. These rules, by design are verbose. The system clearly puts the CCP in charge and companies reactive. The result of this censorship system is that content is usually over-censored, a bonus for the CCP. Google will need to have such a system in place and abide by the same rules. Like all other Chinese IT companies, Google will need to become an extension of the China propaganda machine.

Benefits of Google for Chinese People
What Google search can offer Chinese people is greater access to international news and content, though it will be very limited and censored. More competition for Baidu would push both to serve the Chinese people better.

What Google Will Give Up
What Google will need to give up is any thought that Google will uphold the view of Western human rights. China does not share this ideal and this is reflected in its news and CCP governance. For any clash of ideals between China and the West, and there are many, most recently the incarceration of Uighur, Google will need to toe the CCP line in China.

The CCP will also pressure Google International to change its global news to suit the CCP party line, or risk its business in China. This is standard CCP procedure and should be expected. There are no limits to possible CCP influence. One issue that Google will quickly experience is the issue of Taiwan. China will pressure Google to change Google search and news to reflect the CCP line. Recently many US university publishing houses have experienced such censure and pressure.

Will Google Span the China-West Info Gap?
Currently there is no International company that has spanned both China and the West for content. Apple makes a tenuous toehold with their hardware and Apple Store, with Taiwanese partner Foxconn, but really they are simply turning a blind eye. Can Google be the first? Does Google want to be the first?

China has signaled to the world that it is closing doors and going its own way. Flaunting international ruling, such as the ruling against China for the annexation of the South China Sea islands, or even the incarceration of Uighur. How can Google bridge a gap that might be unbridgeable?

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