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14 July 2019.
The impact of Google on China
In recent years, Google has become a major political player in China. The company’s operations in the country have had far-reaching political implications in this populous Asian nation particularly in today’s world of globalization. This impact was felt in a very strong way when Google protested the move by China to engage in internet censorship in 2010 (Tan 474). During this standoff, Google threatened to shut down all its operations in China. This paper discusses the political impact of Google on China.
Most of the political incidents that have occurred in relation to Google’s operations in China may be used to highlight the power that the company wields as far as China’s political landscape is concerned (MacKinnon 32). In January 2010, Google refused to censor the search results from China after Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists became targets of sophisticated attacks (Friedmann 176). Following this decision, the Chinese government contemplated kicking Google out of the country. The government also contemplated renewing the ongoing battle over government oppression and censorship in China (Kim 29).
Google’s decision had far-reaching political implications for China. In the tussle that ensued, Google threatened to pull out of the country if China did not allow the search engine for Google China to run unfiltered. Meanwhile, world governments continued applying strong pressure on China to abandon its censorship policy.
By wading into the censorship controversy, Google had entangled itself with China’s long and troublesome history of media and internet censorship. This history is associated with critical events that have shaped China’s political landscape in recent times (Bamman 102). Although Google is not a representative of the US government in China, its influence around the world puts it in a position of great influence in terms of promoting free access to information for all the Chinese people.
The threat of pulling out of China was a desperate attempt by Google to make use of its technological and political leverage to force China to abandon its strict laws on cyber censorship. Nevertheless, these efforts must be viewed in the context of China’s growing influence in today’s world of globalization. It is worthwhile to note that currently the US is heavily indebted to China. Indeed, this state of indebtedness on the part of the US seems to come into sharp focus whenever tussles involving American companies arise in China.
Google finds it difficult to operate in China because of the country’s censorship laws. By advocating for free sharing of information, Google has already waded into the murky waters of China’s politics. However, the truth of the matter is that the task of facilitating free access to all cyber resources in China is a daunting one. Even Google is unable to force China to allow the country’s citizens to access certain information, particularly the one relating to the country’s greatest atrocities. In fact, the Chinese government fears that any efforts to back off as far as censorship is concerned would easily be interpreted as a step towards weakening its grip on power.
In many ways, the complaints raised by Google in China are a reflection of the pressure that Western companies continue to pile on the country to adopt less strict censorship laws. The political impact of Google in China tends to be more profound when the concerns raised end up in the US Congress. For example, when Google expressed dismay over censorship, the US Congress promptly accused China of strict censorship of internet search engines as well as violations of human rights (MacKinnon 32).
The political impact of the company in the course of its operations in China does not stop at the level of complaints. Whenever Google raises concerns regarding the restricted business environment in China, many US political leaders exert a lot of pressure on Google not to accept to bow to the country’s strict censorship. For instance, when Google finally accepted to adhere to the less strict censorship guidelines imposed by China, US lawmakers criticized the company for accepting to become an accomplice in China’s censorship policy simply to make huge profits within the Chinese internet market.
Tussles between Google and China not only raise the political temperature between China and the US, they also bring to the fore the issue of actions that can be taken against the Chinese administration. However, a major problem is that China is not only a sovereign nation but also one of the largest world economies today.
Through its operations in China, Google has greatly contributed to a rapid increase in the level of competitiveness in the country’s internet industry (Jiang 57). Such competitiveness opens new horizons for those who seek alternative sources of information. Such an environment facilitates communication among activists. It is therefore not surprising that activism in China has been reinvigorated at a time when internet access is increasingly becoming a reality to millions of people.
In conclusion, Google has contributed greatly to China’s political landscape. In many instances, this impact takes the form of complaints and threats of pulling off operations from China because of strict censorship rules. Moreover, by advocating for an open information society in China, Google has also influenced many human rights activists to become more aggressive and to demand greater access to uncensored information. Finally, the political impact of Google’s mode of operation in China becomes even more profound given the fact that it is a US-based corporation. In many cases, Google’s position on critical issues in China is normally interpreted as a reflection of the political position of the US.
Bamman, David. Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese social media. First Monday, 17.3 (2012): 83-114.
Friedmann, Danny. Paradoxes, Google and China: How Censorship can Harm and Intellectual Property can Harness Innovation. Technology in Society, 34.2 (2012): 174–181.
Jiang, Min. Internet Companies in China: Dancing between the Party Line and the Bottom Line. London: Heinemann, 2012.
Kim, Sung. Google vs. China’s “Great Firewall”: Ethical implications for free speech and sovereignty. New York: Penguin Books, 2012.
MacKinnon, Rebecca. Flatter world and thicker walls? Blogs, censorship and civic discourse in China. Public Choice, 134.2 (2011): 31-46.
Tan, Justin. Business Under Threat, Technology Under Attack, Ethics Under Fire: The Experience of Google in China. Journal of Business Ethics, 110.4 (2012): 469-479.
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