"Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin acknowledged Tuesday the dominant Internet company has compromised its principles by accommodating Chinese censorship demands. He said Google is wrestling to make the deal work before deciding whether to reverse course."
The series of quotes from Sergey Brin are illustrative of the debate going on within him and his company:
"Google's rivals accommodated the same demands — which Brin described as "a set of rules that we weren't comfortable with" — without international criticism, he said.
"We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference," Brin said...
"I think it's interesting that the expectations of people with respect to what happens to their data seems to be different than what is actually happening," he said.
"Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense," Brin said."
In general, the reaction seems to be "about time", and favoring a Google withdrawal from China.
As I've argued in the previous posts, I think it'd be Quixotic for any of the internet companies to withdraw from China in an environment where most of the world governments and corporations are actively trading and investing in China.
And that trade and investment are fundamentally re-making China, by providing a rapidly growing economic life raft to hundreds of millions of China's citizens. With economic growth and self-sufficiency comes the ability to change their own political destiny.
This is already happening, and in record time. As anyone who visited China only twenty years ago, China has done economic wonders for more of it's citizens in a shorter time, with less political convulsions, than almost any nation in history.
And no doubt many personal rights and freedoms have been curtailed in the process. That cost has been borne by most of the currently industrialized and developed countries in the world, although it happened too far in the past (i.e., hundreds of years ago), for many mainstream observers to remember.
We should all have patience and faith in this evolution to bring more economic prosperity, followed by more freedoms, for more of China's citizens in a relatively short period of time.
And if these observations are not convincing, and observers here still feel strongly about China, they might want to consider a personal boycott of any Chinese goods and services to set an example.
They may find it a bit difficult to shop though, given that almost every item in almost any American store now seems to bear a "Made in China" label.
That the Google founders are expressing their conflict on this issue in public is both unusual and candid.
This equivocation is in sharp contrast to the CEOs and large shareholders of any other US company in any industry, who remain deeply committed on expanding their trade and investments relationships with China.
And do so without a chorus in the media and the blogging worlds casting aspersions on their every move.
But of course as we are almost being lead to believe, the Internet industry is far more evil than the rest of US industry.
In my view, should Google choose to withdraw from China, it will do the cause of eventual, long-term personal freedoms in China a major dis-service.
And the company will put itself at an increasingly meaningful dis-advantage relative to not just it's direct competitors like Yahoo! and Microsoft, but most of it's indirect competitors in industries including media, telecommunications, and technology. And that of course will be rapidly calculated and priced into Google's long-term growth prospects by investors.
As contradictory as it may seem today, Google is doing far less evil by being in China today than by not being there at all.
DISCLOSURE: I own shares in Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.