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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

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Dennis Chan

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment. Many liberals in the US made the mistake that they expect the Chinese to have the same working conditions and human rights as the US. Well, it is not going to happen for a long time but things are improving and will continue to improve. Right now, the Chinese living conditions and human rights are a big step up from merely 25 years ago when they basically lived in stone age. I am sure the changes don't come fast enough for liberals, but one has to be realistic. As long as things are moving in the right direction, we will simply have to accept that. We can help as much as we can but the Chinese will have to do the heavy liftings themselves.

Curt

"Google's rivals accommodated the same demands...without international criticism, he said." This isn't remotely true. Yahoo got their asses kicked a lot harder than Google did. In the same ass-kicking party, MS, Secure Computing, Cisco.

I don't believe anyone sensible is suggesting Google jump up and run like hell for the border. Simply, that they use their heft, hopefully in conjunction with their peers, to take a position of least possible collusion with the Chinese government. The problem with many of the actions of companies like Google is not that they 'cooperated' with the Chinese government, but that they RUSHED to ANTICIPATE the desires of the Chinese government.

Anyone who believes business has no moral dimension is an ethical pygmy. There's a lot of ground between 'assume a dramatic moral stand' and 'roll over.' Google should explore that ground.

howardhoward Lindzon

More important - why do you own shares in Microsoft. You should be reading my blog :)

Great post - the google bashing by your tech friends is a joke. You bash your own while the rest of corpoaret america and american consumers are talking out of both sides.

Shame on us

Stuart Wood

Don’t Do Evil?

Google have been given a pretty hard time of late with its venture into China. But are they really compromising their mission of Don’t Do Evil?

I’m not so sure that they are. After all, what is the alternative – completely ignore nearly 20% of the World’s population by saying we’re not playing by your Government’s rules so we won’t engage at all. Life just isn’t like that – well not for people who want to progress and engage with different cultures from around the World and move the human race on. By isolating countries that we simply don’t agree with we get into situations where we start to dehumanise these Governments to the point where we start to think of them as alien, awful factions of people that we then learn nothing about and they in turn learn nothing from us. We don’t progress, and before you know it we are isolated from each other and paranoia and fear sets in and we are at war.

Haven’t we all at some time compromised, or more accurately adjusted, our behaviour when we have travelled abroad on holiday to accommodate local laws, customs and traditions? I certainly have. The problem for Google is how they possibly deal with these far reaching ethical and cultural tensions between their mission, “Don’t Do Evil”, and the fact that they are being complicit in holding back information which will inevitably give people in China a limited view of the world.

Well, Google isn’t censoring these people it is the Chinese government and Google are respecting their national laws. Whilst we may not like it that is what goes on in China and whilst it may be at odds with our sense of openness many Chinese people that I know love their country and their Government. They are proud of China’s history and of its vast development over the last 15 years which couldn’t have been achieved without the Chinese Government opening itself up to foreign investment and capitalism.

Whilst censorship has serious and far-reaching implications, child labour/slavery, an entirely worse evil in my view, has been prevalent in China for years. I have witnessed such atrocious factories myself, and being horrified by them and the conditions in which kids from 11 onwards work in. But what of the clothes that you wear? Can you safely say these were not produced by these forgotten children? Take a look around your house and tell me that you are 100% sure that the TV, computer, microwave or trainers that you own were produced by cheerful workers with healthcare and a fair wage. These products are produced cheaper and cheaper, at our demand, and with that they become more and more available to people with less wealth from around the world – which develops the world we live in. But what of the children that produce them? Their lives are of course consigned to the reality that they are the “human resources” that simply live, work and breathe their slavery every day of every week of every year in the most squalid and brutal of conditions. I don’t however see everyone reaching to throw their PCs and TVs out of the window in disgust at the horrors that they have been complicit in. And, if these kids, whose parents simply couldn’t afford to feed, weren’t doing this work, what would they be doing? Starvation possibly or maybe sold into the sex industry? Not an easy situation to wrestle with is it...

So, do we engage with China abiding by their laws and customs and congratulate Google’s bravery for embracing a very difficult situation or do we divorce ourselves from it and start boycotting China until they start listening to us and doing things our way? All sounds a bit arrogant to me that we somehow know best. I choose engaging with China every day, of every week, of every year, with the hope, and belief, that we can learn, progress and influence each other. As China becomes more affluent and integrated with other global cultures, and we become more knowledgeable and understanding of them, maybe then we will start to see the Government ease up on its tight reign on censorship of its people and then maybe some of the kids who are making your PCs, Clothes, TVs can begin to take greater ownership of their lives, lift themselves out of poverty, and actually be able to afford a PC to search Google, in its unabridged form. I wonder what they will make of our amazing democracy…

Google, in my view, should be applauded for engaging with the Chinese Government and having the strength to struggle with some of these incredibly complicated and challenging ethical tensions. Don’t Do Evil is something that we should all aspire to do and we should of course, where possible, avoid being complicit in the misery of others. But let’s be clear that this will not be achieved easily and a healthy mix of campaigning and commercial engagement is the way forward in my view. Anyone, of course, as I do, who has an issue with censorship or Human Rights abuse in China should write to the Chinese government and campaign against it or sign up to Amnesty Internationals http://www.irrepressible.info or visit http://www.amnesty.org


Let’s remember that the Chinese government are the lawmakers, not Google, and few of us can say we haven’t been in complicit in the misery of others, wittingly or not, sometime or other in the past. This is something that I am constantly working on minimising as I am sure Google are…

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