Another twist in the ongoing row between Google and the Chinese government: now China's state-run news agency Xinhua has accused Google of having ‘intricate ties’ with the US government, even suggesting that it supplies US intelligence agencies with its Chinese search engine results. The accusations come as Google makes up its mind about whether or not to pull out of the country, supposedly after a row over censorship and state-sponsored hacking. And given the amount of hostile coverage Google has received in China since, lots of which has been pretty nationalistic in tone, it's no wonder US firms feel increasingly unwelcome in the world's fastest-growing market...
State-owned media outlets in China have been lining up to put the boot into Google. As well as accusing it of collusion with the Pentagon, Xinhua also claimed Google was trying to change Chinese society by imposing American values - while the China Daily newspaper said Google was ‘arrogant’ to try to change Chinese government policy (with respect to censorship). 'Google's relations with the U.S. government cannot be deeper,’ it apparently said. ‘How can people believe that the company's search results are without any bias when it lacks independence as well as business ethics?’ Strong stuff indeed - particularly as there doesn't seem to be much in the way of actual evidence for any of this.
By the sounds of it, Xinhua won't be shedding any tears if Google does up sticks - it insisted that China’s internet regulation would remain unchanged either way. But its anti-American rhetoric may provide even further discouragement to other US firms operating in China. According to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 38% of its members already feel unwelcome due to discrimination and inconsistent legal treatment. Over half of respondents also reckoned that product discrimination (where Chinese-produced products are favoured over foreign ones) would have a negative impact on their operations in China.
If Google does quit China, we wouldn't be surprised if the decision was a pragmatic and commercial one as much as a principled stand - after all, it's still a distant second behind market leader Baidu, so the relatively small amount of revenue it generates there may not be deemed sufficient to justify the amount of stick it’s had about its policies there. As for China, picking a fight so publicly and aggressively with one of the world's biggest companies isn't the greatest way to advertise its credentials as a place to do business. But perhaps it reasons that the Chinese market is so potentially huge that international companies just can't afford to ignore it, whatever happens…
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