Last updated: March 24, 2010 - 8:29am
[Commentary] Restrictions on Internet freedom in China have forced all foreign media companies that operate there to make and accept compromises. But then it should come as no surprise that an authoritarian government does not make it easy to promote the free flow of information.
Hard choices must be made on how to balance core values, shareholder profits and the best interests of Chinese consumers. So it's all the more impressive that Google has displayed sound instincts and judgment at every step of the way in China. And it's all the more alarming that in the end Google decided it had no choice but to abandon its Chinese-language search services hosted on mainland servers. Harsher control only feeds public dissatisfaction. We're seeing this in the reaction to the Google conflict, with normally nationalistic netizens expressing support for the company and even delivering flowers to its Beijing headquarters. Google has made censorship of search results, largely invisible until now, a topic of debate. Incrementally advancing freedom is the best that media companies can hope to do in China.
Staying out of the country entirely or plunging in with no bottom line have their own risks and opportunity costs. It's much harder to try to do business there while also preserving your values. But that is where valuable contributions can be made.
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