In the wake of the latest threat by the Chinese government, Google Inc.'s only choice is to pack up and exit the Chinese market, wholesale.
It would be difficult for any company to turn its back on the nation that houses more potential users of its product than any other. But this is precisely what Google must do, now that the Mountain View, Calif., company has thrown down the gauntlet and been publicly rebuked.
On Friday (March 12), Li Yizhong, China's minister of industry and information technology responded to Google's Jan. 12 announcement that it intended to stop censoring search results in China, saying, as reported by The Wall Street Journal and others, "If you insist on taking this action that violates Chinese laws, I repeat: You are unfriendly and irresponsible, and you yourself will have to bear the consequences."
So be it. Mr. Yizhong and other leaders will simply have to continue to "bear the consequences" of running a society that denies citizens access to information.
Late Friday, the Financial Times reported that Google is 99.9 percent sure to go ahead with plans to withdraw from China after negotiations over censorship reached an impasse.
Bravo. Let's make that an even 100 percent.
China is the country with the more Internet users than any other, an estimated 400 million. By some estimates, that number will exceed 800 million by 2013. Google understandably wants that user base, but at what cost?
Google doesn't make tractors. The company's primary business is providing people with access to informationand it does this better than anyone else. Performing this service well while at the same time submitting to censorship is not possible. Due to the nature of its business, and its influence, Google has a special responsibility to avoid markets where the information it provides users is subject to restrictions established by a repressive government.
Recall that Google is bound by its famous motto,"Don't be evil." Some argue that Google failed to live up to that standard when it struck the Faustian bargain to adhere to restrictions on content searches upon establishing Google.cn in 2005. Maybe so. But at this point, given China's stance, there is no longer any room for argument. For Google to tuck its tail between its legs and continue to abide by Chinese government censorship policies could not be construed as anything but evil.