While providing an allowance for censorship is against the grain of its vision, not doing so has two repercussions. The business repercussion is that it loses an emerging market with roughly a fifth of the world population. Its philosophical repercussion is that it loses the opportunity to improve the information access and experience to a large number of information-seekers in China. Google’s inability to communicate the logic behind its actions is because of the stigma attached with information-censorship that is widely criticized as putting business interests before human rights.
It is the duty of Google Inc to effectively convince the world population that its efforts are to gain a foothold in a market that has the potential to change the metrics of any organizational balance sheet, while at the same time treating this as a first step towards wider dissemination of information in future. Where is the Company most vulnerable, from a communications standpoint? Google cannot profess to believe that China would be rid of the censorship in near future. Any utterance of such belief jeopardizes its prospects in the country under the current political set up.
At the same time it cannot effectively reconcile the concessions it has given the Chinese government with its long and dearly held philosophy. This inability to communicate its aspirations for a more relaxed atmosphere in China in the foreseeable future is the most vulnerable aspect of its organizational philosophy. Besides, the steps that it has taken to ensure that it is not used like Yahoo in any government sponsored witch hunt or human rights violations is seen as an inadequate step in the US while China views this as a clause that can be altered to suit its political realities by pressure tactics.
What are the key problems Google faces in this situation? Google’s problems in this situation are manifold. Google loses credibility in the open world for making allowance to the demands of the Chinese government. Google’s market value that is linked in great measure to the positive sentiment attached to its organizational philosophy and culture is eroded. It becomes the target of several lawmakers for violating human rights initiatives of the US Government.
Google stands to lose a large market share if China uses its tried and tested formula of copying technology with scant regard for Intellectual property rights (something it has become notorious for). Start ups in China along the lines of Google’s business model can effectively wipe out all outside presence if they can replicate the model at a small percentage of the operational cost. If Google chooses to withdraw from China, the accusations will range from poor business sense to reneging on its stated mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible.
Its competitors would use this issue irrespective of the conduct or the outcome to decrease the prestige that the brand holds in the minds of the consumers as well as the markets. What advice would you give Brin , Page, and Schmidt? This is the first time that Google has had to face a test of organizational character in its young life. It is better for the co-founders and the CEO to articulate the company’s stand in the most non-controversial yet optimistic terms and take a publicly visible stand.
Even if it affects their market value in the short term, it is better for the organization to be seen professing something strongly rather than skirt the issue. In the long term, when the obvious benefits of market expansion occur, the market can be won over. Ultimately, as it has been proven in history, government censorship as seen in China today would be lifted, and Google would have a strong presence to pursue both its philosophical interests as well as business prospects.
In my opinion they should clarify that they aim to give better information to the Chinese users than what they have access to now (though under the restricted parameters of governmental censorship) and declare that they hope to be a strong presence in China when unrestricted access to information is allowed at any future date. It is also pertinent to inform the public that it has no intention to rob 1/5th of the world’s population of a great search experience because it chooses to be obstinate in following its philosophy to the letter rather than the spirit.