The Long & Winding Road: Google blasts China

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The gloves are off! Only last month Google made a high profile visit to China presumably to cement relationships with the sleeping giant that is potentially 1.3 billion internet users strong. This week we hear that Google boss Eric Schmidt is condemning China as the most ‘active and enthusiastic filterer of information’ around. He is reported to have also claimed that China is ‘the most prolific hacker of foreign companies’. Perhaps the talks did not go as well as Google had hoped or perhaps China stood their ground and said they could handle their own internet needs without the infiltration of Google or anybody else. One thing for sure is that we will never know exactly what happened. 

Oh the intrigue! Well thank heavens Mr Schmidt has found time to put all these thoughts and frustrations in a book, The New Digital Age due to be published in April, otherwise I shudder to think what his therapy costs would have been! 

So, when is all of the cake needed, in market share terms? Google certainly has a substantial hold over internet activity outside of south east Asia and China particularly. Some months ago in this blog I detailed the established basis of China’s social networking world with companies like ‘renren’ and ‘Weibo’ firmly at the helm of Chinese social habits. 

This is what I wrote back in the beginning of April 2012: 

China has 355,000,000 MOBILE internet users in 2011, a seven fold increase since 2007, they have a social media segment with the likes of ‘renren’ claiming 95 million users being the least impressive of them all. ‘QQ’ has 711 million , BBS has 500 million users , two other sites have between 305 million and 370 million users respectively plus a host of other smaller sites going strong and all expecting substantial growth over the coming few years especially in the mobile market. Do they need Facebook or Twitter? I think not! Before too long the dominant language on the internet will be Chinese. 

Would I be unkind to suggest that Google wanted too big a piece of the pie and too much control in China and have been shown the door? This all begs the question whether the world needs to be dominated by mega corporations or whether there is plenty of room for sizeable businesses in specific locations which cater for that area. 

Is this all a battle for the very ‘heart and mind’ of the internet? My feeling is that having different versions of similar businesses is healthy, desirable and sensible. 

Back in March 2010 relations with Google and the Chinese government were rocky, as the clip below reminds us:

The issue here may not and probably is not as shallow as market share but more likely to be about the nature of exactly what we use the internet for. In the West we proclaim the internet is ‘open’ and a portal to just about any and all information for just about any and all users…. normal legal and social practices permitting. There is a different view of ‘open’ in China and the content accessed by the users is regulated by the government. Some say it is oppressive but others claim it is in the best interests of the country that it is done this way. 

So we have a clash of cultural sensibilities and a tug of war between two very different psychological standpoints…the jury is ‘out’ and we await the verdict….this one will run and run! 

see you on the long and winding road……….. Patrick 

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