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China And Google: The Real Story?

Last week's announcement by Google that they are likely to pull out of China due to the recent hacking incident was quite a shocker. Google didn't say they were definitely leaving, but that they would only stay if they can offer a service uncensored by the Chinese government. That sounds like a swan song to me.
Last week's announcement by Google that they are likely to pull out of China due to the recent hacking incident was quite a shocker. Google didn't say they were definitely leaving, but that they would only stay if they can offer a service uncensored by the Chinese government. That sounds like a swan song to me.I applaud Google for having the guts both to talk about the hacking incident, and to declare that they won't compromise their principles any longer. It seems that only Google really wanted to even bring up the subject, even though more than 20 technology companies were targeted in the attack. Up to this point, all tech companies seemed to have a stay-in-China-at-all-costs policy. It's easy to see why they'd do this; China hasn't been much of a market for them so far, but it seems suicidal to ignore the country when it presents such a growth opportunity. Perhaps these past few weeks have convinced Google that as long as the current regime is in place, there's no hope for a pot of gold at the end of the Chinese rainbow.

Yet to me, the big story here isn't that one company (admittedly an important technology leader) appears to be headed out of China. It's that China has a well-developed hacker network targeting high-technology companies doing business both inside and outside the country. Despite all the bowing and scraping those companies were doing to the Chinese government to stay in the country, it wasn't enough. China clearly won't be happy unless they have turned those companies into fully-cooperative branches of the government.

Let's not forget why China wants this information. They want to wipe out any dissenting political thought or word. The technology that we all enjoy is unfortunately making that easier. Whether it's through overt cooperation or covert espionage, the infrastructure of the Internet is giving China's government the opportunity to exercise even more control over their people.

Clearly, any company that wants to do business in a country needs to comply with that country's laws. China was seen as such a prize that many US-based companies were willing to overlook the oppressive Chinese government and hide behind the oak leaf that they were merely following the laws. Now they know the government feels it need not do the same.

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