Google, China, and Trust


Google China's logo

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday Google redirected google.cn to Google's Hong Kong site after a many month-long war of words between Google and the Chinese government. Google accused the Chinese government of industrial espionage and has been chaffing under the Chinese government's requirement for censorship. There's a lot of commentary about Google destroying their chances to compete in the world's fastest growing economy, but I want to focus on something else.

Google was caught between what it thought was the right thing and it's desire--some would say need--to do business in China. Google chose the right thing.

One of the most important attributes of a search engine is trustworthiness. If you don't trust your search engine to give you correct, unbiased results you will probably start looking for a new search engine. The same is true, of course, of any other service--Internet or otherwise. When Google decided that it would rather pull out of China than break trust with it's users, they made the right--not just the correct--decision.

The future might reward Google for the decision and it might not. Not all right decisions result in good outcomes for those involved. Such is life. Still, I believe that it is precisely this kind of pressure which will ultimately force China to adopt rulesets more in line with those of the connected world (as Thomas Barnett might say). Even with home grown search engines, China will need connectedness to the rest of the world to flourish and every stroke increases the pressure for them to comply.