Google vs China, or how the self-righteous better than thou’s need to get off their high horse

At I read Duncan’s post the other day about Google climbing back on their phoney high horse to ride out of China on I remembered back to a podcast that Cyndy Aleo-Carreira, myself and Duncan did together where the subject of Google opening up a branch office in China in light of their Great Firewall of censorship. At the time the uproar over this move was all the talk of the blogosphere and even I felt that this was a wrong move because Google had agreed to censor itself within the country.

Over the course of the discussion on the podcast Duncan managed to get me to seriously reconsider my otherwise staunch position (one of the reasons why I have always respected him I might add) against companies doing business in China.

Now we fast forward a few years and suddenly we yet another uproar over Google and China as the search giant has decided to move part of its operations out of the country. Since the news first broke there has, with the few odd exceptions, been a rush to support Google’s supposed change of mind regarding doing business in country that believes strongly in their right to censor what their citizens see on the Internet.

However not everyone is climbing on their high horse of self-righteousness over the rising tensions between Google and China. One of those voices is blogger Nicolas Deleon who writes

What I don’t understand is, what gives Google the right to flout a country’s laws, no matter how “bad” they may seem? China doesn’t want its citizens to read up on Tienanmen Square—and? I really don’t think it’s the place outsiders to tell China how to run itself. You wouldn’t want Big China Corporation to build a factory in the middle of Texas, then demand that the state of Texas bend to its whims, would you?


I’m not defending Chinese law, but I fully recognize that it’s none of my business. If that’s how the Chinese government wants to run its affairs, so be it. It’s fairly silly to project one’s own cultural animus onto other peoples.

If Google wants to do business in China, it has to play by China’s rules. What’s so controversial about that?

Google shouldn’t get a free pass simply because it’s Google.

Exactly right and it is exactly the same sentiment that Duncan expressed in that podcast almost two years ago. It is also one I have come to agree with.

As individuals we are expected to live within the laws of any country we visit in the world and it is no different for companies that want to make money by providing services to citizens of the countries that they open up shop in. Just because Google likes to flaunt its now highly tarnished motto of do no evil it doesn’t change the fact that they are operating within a foreign country which means they have to follow that country’s laws – whether they agree with them or not.

Sure we all would probably love it if China woke up one day and said no more censorship however that is not going to be the case for a very long time which means anyone – individual or company – does not have the right to assume that they can dictate how that country is suppose to behave.

You want China to change then don’t expect global companies to break that country’s laws. You want China to change then the onus is on us to not support any Chinese companies or products which provide the financial support to the government controlling the country.

It’s easy to stand on the sidelines ranting and raving but if you want to do business in a country like China then you are obligated to follow their laws, not flaunt them for the short term PR gain you get with the warm and fuzzy self-righteous crowd.