Understanding the Google/China Rift


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The Surprising Thawing of the Google/China Cold Shoulder

I had been expecting Google to take its marbles and go
home—abandoning China to Baidu and other local players. This
expectation was, in part, due to the great analysis I read and commented on, in Tricia Wang's Cultural Bytes
blog. So I was pleasantly surprised this week to learn that Google and
the Chinese government had come to an accommodation that renewed
Google's license in China and lets Google continue to serve Chinese
customers, but still host their servers in Hong Kong as they’ve been
doing since the beginning of the year.

Josh Noble at the Financial Times sheds more light on WHY the Chinese government
renewed Google's license at the last minute, by quoting the Eurasia Group

heavily: To paraphrase, the Chinese succumbed because
Chinese scientists and geeks rely heavily on Google, and
Chinese industry relies heavily on its scientists and geeks. Josh
quotes the Eurasia Group:

"Google had won the loyalty of Chinese scientists
and engineers. This powerful constituency sits at the
nexus of every strand of China's
industrial modernization effort. And its members often prefer
using Google to its Chinese competitor, Baidu, the limited search
capabilities of which would constrain
access to international technical books, papers, data,
and websites, and which cannot compete with Google's
popular translator tool."

Googlist Realism Googlist Realism. She takes Google to
task for using an "ethical edge" to justify their stance
with China:

"They [Google] believe that they draw upon the
qualities that stand opposite from evil — benevolence,
compassion, and kindness — to serve their
higher-calling of introducing the world to information."…..

"This is a common moral trope of colonialism,
imperialism, globalization, and neo-liberalism: ethical
beliefs that justify expansionary practices of
extracting commodities and creating new markets in the
name of a 'higher calling.'"

But instead of extracting spices, opium, gold,
bodies, labor or oil, Google was trying to extract
information from the Chinese market and then commodify
that information as it provided it back to Chinese
consumers — ostensibly in the name of 'freedom.' The
weapon of choice is no longer guns, germs, and steel, but
free-information, open platforms, and distributed

slides from her recent speech about this topic, in
which she goes on to say:

"We need to make sure that we don't
succumb to Googlist Realism. Much like Capitalist Realism, the
belief that there is no alternative to the
reality of capitalism as a way of life, Googlist Realism
is the belief that there is no alternative to Google as
our search engine and as our gatekeeper of information. The
belief that capitalism can improve life is now
supplanted by the free-information regimes of
the belief that unfettered
information access is life.

Google has successfully linked the commodification of
information to an ethical system of social change. This
rhetoric is so strong that I worry that we could lose
our imagination for any other form of information
reality or social change outside of a Google-like model.
I also worry that those who question this model will be framed
as enemies of freedom, information, and social change.

Google and China have their own visions for the
social life of information and for the role of
information in society. We should be equally critical of
a corporation with algorithms that create a consensual
consumer culture based on advertising clicks as we are of a country
with policies that create a consensual citizenry based on
obedience through a paternalistic form of governance."

interesting paper, which she delivered
at a conference at UCLA on June 29, 2010.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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