Google shocked the world this morning with its threat to pull out of China after an investigation revealed that malicious cyber attacks originating from the country were targeting Chinese human-rights activists’ Gmail accounts.
According to official releases and Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond’s blog post, the move was made because the attacks violate the company’s “do no evil” motto—an example of Google’s altruistic brand trumping corporate greed.
And yet, while the decision certainly aligns with Google’s brand message, its decision to pull out of China isn’t as simple as it first appears. It is in fact, a brilliant spin on a tough decision that would have taken place at some point in the future anyway.[more]
Google, contrary to popular belief, was never a major presence in China. Google.cn was the domain of English-speaking expatriates and foreign-minded, highly educated Chinese, while the lucrative masses surfed Baidu, Youku, Tudou, and their equivalents. As techcrunch.com reporter, Sarah Lacey notes after a meeting with Google’s former head of China, Kai-fu Lee, last October, one of the main reasons as to why he left Google was that it was clear the company was never going to substantially increase its market share or beat Baidu. According to Lacey, today’s announcement is an opportunity for the company to turn a negative into a positive.
In short, Google is making lemonade out of lemons. And it’s working. The Internet space is rife with praise for Google’s decision to stand up to China and criticism of governments and international businesses that have failed to do the same. The company wins all around – it cuts off its China deadweight, turns itself into a bastion of free speech, and becomes a martyr for the cause worldwide, at a time when many are eyeing China’s rise with a wary eye. Google may not have learned how to run a successful business in China, but it definitely learned how to spin—and well.