When Larry Page and Sergy Brin first launched the Internet search engine, Google; they did so with one goal in mind, to provide people searching the internet for information with the fastest, most reliable search engine. Because of their creativity and innovation, Google is one of the largest and most profitable Internet search engines available. With more than 150 domains worldwide, people in almost every country can search the Internet for information about everything from historical facts to current events. Ingrained into the company’s code of ethics is the often quoted phrase “don’t be evil” (Hill, 2009, p. 148). By this, Google means the company will not compromise their Code of Conduct and will provide searchers with information which is current and not biased or censored in any way. To Google, their Code of Conduct is also about “doing the right thing” (Google, 2009, para. 1). Because of Google’s Code of Conduct when the company entered China, human rights activists had hopes that the citizens of China could search the Internet without the Chinese government censoring the results.
The purpose of this paper is to address the following regarding Google’s presence in China, (a) the legal, cultural, and ethical challenges confronting Google, and (b) the various roles the Chinese government plays in Google’s Chinese business operations. In addition, the paper will include a summary of the strategic and operational challenges facing Google managers who are living and working in China..
LEGAL, CULTURAL, AND ETHICAL CHALLENGES
In 2000, Google began offering services to the Chinese allowing them the ability to search in their own language. Google did not have an office in China so the service was out of the United States. For approximately two years, the Chinese people could use Google to search for information over the Internet. Then in 2002, the Chinese government blocked access to Google’s website and instead began making searchers use a site approved by the Chinese government. When the government later allowed access to Google, people found certain sites considered politically sensitive were not available.
China was blocking sites the government considered subversive. To solve this problem, Google decided to establish an office in China with the goal of providing the Chinese population access to the largest amount of information the company could provide. In essence, Google voluntarily agreed to censor certain results considered subversive by the Chinese government. This created legal and ethical problems of Google being able to live up to the company standards of providing users complete access to all information.
Various Roles the Chinese Government Plays
In 2010, Google discovered their website had been hacked into. Although the company will not say publically whether or not they think the Chinese government was behind the hacking, they did inform the government they would no longer voluntarily censor their search results. According to Branigan “Google claimed the cyber-attack originated from China and that its intellectual property was stolen, but that evidence suggested a primary goal was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists” (Branigan, 2010, para. 14). Google also stated that they found where Gmail accounts of human rights activists living in China, Europe, and the United States were being hacked into by third parties on a routine basis (Branigan, 2010). During February, a statement was released by Secretary of State Clinton concerning the rights of all to have access to the Internet and “pledging to file a formal State Department protest regarding this month’s alleged Google China censorship and hacking” (Baer, 2010, para. 1).
Strategic and Operational Challenges
Because of these latest developments, Google found themselves in the position of needing to make some very difficult decisions. The company needed to decide whether or not they should remain in China and agree to the terms of the Chinese government. These terms essentially meant allowing third parties to access and monitor the company’s site and Gmail accounts. However, Google seems to have found a solution for this dilemma by providing searchers with a link to the company’s uncensored Hong Kong website. The Chinese government seems to be in agreement with this solution and is allowing Google to remain in China for now (Horowitz, 2010).
When Google decided to enter the Chinese market, the company did so because they knew how important the Chinese market was for their business. They also realized that China provided an opportunity for the company to grow. However, entering China also resulted in Google being faced with having to make some serious ethical and legal decisions. These decisions include whether Google should continue to censor results on its website or if Google eventually needs to pull out of China. Currently, Google seems to think that giving the Chinese access to some information is better than not granting them access to any information.
Baer, M. (2010). _Cyber attacks & the ethical dimension of the Google China episode_. Retrieved from http://globalcomment.com/2010/cyber-attacks-the-ethical-dimension-of-the-google-china-episode/
Branigan, T. (2010). _Google challenge to China over censorship_. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jan/13/google-china-censorship-battle
Google. (2009). _Google Investor Relations Code of Conduct_. Retrieved from
Hill, C. W. (2009). _International Business: Competing in the Global Marketplace_ (7th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Irwin
Horowitz, D. (2010). _Google Still in China_. Retrieved from http://www.daniweb.com/news/story295468.html