Is it possible to do business in China and hang on to your core values? Apple believes it is. But Alphabet Chairman John Hennessy doesn’t think so.
“Anybody who does business in China compromises some of their core values,” CNBC reports him as saying.
Alphabet Chairman John Hennessy is conflicted about what Google’s strategy should be in China.
“Anybody who does business in China compromises some of their core values,” Hennessy said in an interview this week with Bloomberg. It’s true for every company “because the laws in China are quite a bit different than they are in our own country,” he said, according to CNBC.
The chairman is clearly conflicted over whether Google should re-enter the country with a stripped down product that complies with local law. The article expands on that conflict.
“Hennessy, like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, framed the company’s consideration of a censored search product through the lens of it being a better option than current domestic products, like the local search engine Baidu.”
If Hennessy is correct it seems like a hard left turn for Google to go from, “Don’t be evil” to “We have no core values.” In 2010, Google left China out of loyalty to core values. To return now for no better reason than money seems to be a step in the wrong direction. That is an opinion held by many Google employees who have expressed concerns over the proposed return.
At the time Google was leaving China, Apple was tightening relations with China. It has been a tumultuous relationship to say the least. Some are worried that Apple capitulated too much by moving all the data of Chinese customers to Chinese servers.
The vast majority of Apple’s manufacturing is done in China. It would be impossible to simply pull out of China and still meet demand. But Apple believes they can work with China without compromising who they are.
That case is a little harder for Google to make. Google is an information broker that offers search as a product, and freely available information as a human right. One wonders what is even meant by a good search engine that is crippled with censorship.
Good luck getting information on the Tiananmen Square massacre. China wants to pretend that it never happened. And Google wants to help them. It is like aiding a holocaust denier. That challenge to core values does not go away by deflecting shade on Apple and other companies that do business in the region. Each company has to answer for their own core values. At least one company executive acknowledges that compromise.