Google is struggling to find its place in China amongst heavy censorship, evaluating its future with the Chinese people. “We like what China is doing in terms of growth…we just don’t like censorship. We hope that will change and we can apply some pressure to make things better for the Chinese people,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Just two weeks ago Google dealt an ultimatum to China, unless Google was allowed to offer an uncensored search engine in China, it would no longer provide a censored search engine and would consider pulling out of China entirely.
China which has historically been known for its closed doors, keeping western ideals out of China seems to be the goal. Censorship is extremely thick, the Chinese people are forced to use censored search engines or use proxy servers to access the Internet in other countries which is illegal. Google obviously has a lot invested in the Chinese economy so to pull out completely would never happen; Schmidt hopes that he will be able to meet China in the middle. At the end of the day China will have the final say in this matter.
“We like the Chinese people. We like our Chinese employees … we remain committed to being there”, Schmidt stated last week on Google’s fourth-quarter earnings’ call. Something interesting to consider is that on the same day that Schmidt made those statements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Google for fighting censorship; Internet companies have a “shared responsibility” with the U.S. government in assuring free access to the Internet wherever you are in the world. Unfortunately, that is not an easy task and governments will want to decide for themselves what the people are exposed to.
Will Google succeed in changing Chinese censorship laws? Probably Not! Even if Google shuts down Google.cn, Schmidt is exploring its options in China. Google could still operate a software-development or research presence in China. I guess Google’s battle with censorship in China will continue into the future!