Business Ethics: Google VS The Chinese Censorship System

1.0 Factors for Google’s success and the jeopardy for the launch of Google.cn

1.1 Factors

Based on the information offered by this case, we may relatively easy to figure out these factors which promote the success of Google as a world famous search engine.

1.1.1 The casual and democratic corporate culture

We may define the corporate culture of Google as the most casual and democratic one among these multinational companies in the world. For instance, Google has been making the efforts to offer its employees with the happy and harmonious working environment by which Google provides employees with an open space to work, where employees of Google feel free to contribute to a variety of innovations and creations to assist the smooth development of this company. At the same time, although the inside structure of Google may be regard as a standard corporate hierarchy, the human resource management of Google tries its best to make people work more freely without being confined into such kind of hierarchy. That is to say, employees in Google may be required to work flexibly on different tasks whenever they are needed, which further improve the competitiveness as well as flexibility of these people.

By and large, the free, democratic as well as casual corporate culture fosters the spirit of flexibility, innovation, passion and high level of sense of belonging marked on its people, which become the first factor resulting in its success.

1.1.2 High level of business ethics

From the very beginning to the end of this case, we may find that Google possesses high level of business ethics even compared to other competitors engaged in the same business in Chinese market. According to Trevino and Nelson (2011), business ethics refers to a set of applied ethics examining the principles related to the scope of ethics and moral problems, which take place in the business environment.

For Google, its high level of business ethics can be reflected from its core values and mission. For instance, unlike other business, Google often insists that it shouldn’t make ethical sacrifice to pursue the increased profitability for its shareholders. And at the same time, it always keeps on its mission to offer its users with the easier access to the information which they expect.

By and large, just because the high level of business ethical behaviors practised by Google, users in the global market speak highly of this search engine.

1.1.3 Suitable human resource management

Google is regarded as a responsible and attractive employer brand by the Fortune magazine. For instance, although Google has enjoyed a fast development speed from its beginning till now, its management still maintains some of the same personal, which shows its responsibility for its employees. and at the same time, Google is also keen on fostering comfortable working environment for its employees which is just as the case mentioned that people work in the open space in which employees are free to roam instead of work in cubicles. It is the comfortable, flexible and democratic working atmosphere encourages so many talents joining in the big family of Google.

Furthermore, Google’s success is also due to its full understanding of the diversity workforce management issue in today’s market place. In the market of China for instance, to support the development of Google in Chinese market, the management of this company employ Kai-Fu Lee who is a Chinese born in Taipei. Just because the background of Mr. Lee in China, he is able to lead Google.cn to find a better and suitable way in Chinese market compared other foreign colleague in Google. Under the lead of Mr. Lee, Google.cn makes full use of the rich talent pool in Chinese market to assist it development.

Hence, we also believe the proper human resource management strategy employed by Google become the third factor of its success based on information obtained from the case.

1.1.4 Effective leadership practices

The last factor contributes to Google’s success is defined as the effective leadership practices in the global market. In the case of China for instance, Google’s management is very wise to develop partnerships with many strong brands of China. For example, cooperation with the famous domestic enterprises such as China mobile, Xunlei.com, China Telecom as well as Tianya.com and so on, which support Google to gain more market share and users in Chinese market in a relatively fast speed.

By and large, the four factors mentioned above are the factors to promote the success of Google based on the information obtained from this case, which ensure the strength of Google to steady its development speed.

1.2 Factors related Jeopardy for Google.cn

Everything has two sides, so even these successful factors for Google may produce risks for this famous search engine. That is to say, these conditions mentioned by us contributing to the success of Google may also become the factors which result in the risk for Google to launch Google.cn in Chinese market.

The first condition arouse the possibility of risks for Google to develop its business in China is its belief on ethics. In its corporate value and mission, Google states clearly that even though there is great financial attraction, Google will never give in and sacrifice ethics, which is summarized as “Don’t be evil”.

While just because of such kind of insistence on the ethical practice to offer its users with the access to the information they want, the developing road for Google.cn is involved with jeopardy, which can be found from the political background of China.

China is the People’s Republic which is in the charge of the communist party. Under the government of this party, the political sensitivity is higher than that in these western countries which are defined as capitalist countries such as the USA, the United Kingdom, Austria, and Canada and so on (Sun 2009). Due to such kind of political sensitivity in China, relatively strict censorship system on the safety of the information flowing into this country comes into being. And the standard to assess the safety of a piece of information is set by the communist party of China, which requires these pieces of information should exclude information or documents referring to the issues such as political subjects of “democracy” or “Tibet”, religion issue such as “Falun Gong” as well as “Dalai Lama or other kinds of undesirable issues for Chinese society.

In a word, these kinds of information mentioned above are banned or prohibited by China in any search engine operating in Chinese market including Google.cn. But such kind of requirement is against the ethical principle held by Google, which prefers and is keen on offering users the information they prefer to promote the democracy and human rights.

The reason why Google.cn may be in the situation of jeopardy is due to this. And it may only have two choices. One of them is to insist on its belief on business ethics to offer the Chinese users the actual access to their wanted information, which may result in the failure of Google’s business in Chinese market due to its violation of the regulation of Chinese government on information safety. And the other choice of Google.cn to suffer in this market is to make some compromise to the requirement of Chinese government on information censorship, which may be against the business mission and value of Google as well.

By and large, under such kind of circumstance, although the Chinese market is seemed to possess great potential for Google to enhance its profitability level for its shareholders, it may go into a dilemma situation which is involved with many risks and uncertainties.

2.0 Google in China

2.1 Discussion on Google entering into China

2.1.1 The censorship and Google.cn

The event that Google entering the market of China has caused hot dispute, which even arouses the objection from some of stockholders. As we all know, China as a republic country, which has relatively high political sensitivity. That is some certain kind of information, which may threaten the governance and peace of this country or some panic or doubts about the government practices, may be forbidden. Hence in this country, strict censorship to organize the healthy order of the information market defined by the central government of China including the ban on the flowing of information such as these sensitive points in Chinese society including the subjects of democracy, Tibet, Falun Gong, Dalai Lama, pornography and so on into China.

That is to say, for Google to launch the Google.cn to Chinese market, Google have to make the compromise to censorship regulation carried out by China, which indicates Google may have no choice but to go against its original belief to offer the access to all of the information required by users even in China. Furthermore, entering the Chinese market, it may indicate Google has to block these accesses to the sensitive information for Chinese users as other competitors have done in China.

And worse still, it is also possible for Google to sacrifice more in ethical aspect as other competitors did to suffer in Chinese market. For instance, under the great pressure of Chinese government, both Yahoo and Microsoft have sacrificed the ethics to disclose private information of its users to Chinese government and finally result in the harsh sentence received by their users. As a matter of fact, it is unethical for the two companies to disclose the private information of its users in the America market or other western market. But in China to gain the pass card as market players, either Yahoo or Microsoft is seemed to have no choice. That is to say, some time, Google may also face such kind of dilemma.

And as a matter of fact, this organization has made some concession already in this market. For example, Google.cn has self-censored its accesses to information offered to its users to accord with the legal guidance of Chinese government. Blocking some information access to users in China may indicate what Google.cn has done against its corporate mission to some extent.

While at the same time, we have to point out that the way Google employs to enter into Chinese market may differ from these competitors including Yahoo and Microsoft. Google.cn has tried its best to stand out the issue of transparency, that is Google.cn gives users some clues on the censorship issue when some specific information is blocked , which is aimed to protect the right to be informed for users compared to other search engines operated in China.

2.1.2 Evaluation on Google in China

2.1.2.1 Economic aspect

From the economic aspect, the choice for Google to enter into China by making some compromise to the censorship regulations carried out by Chinese government may be regarded as reasonable. Just as the case mentioned, China as the No. 2 internet market in the world which indicates a huge market for Google to gain more profit for its shareholders. That is why there are many foreign players such as Yahoo and Microsoft come into Chinese market and make the commitment to the regulation on information censorship issue so as to make profit.

Besides the great attraction of this market, we may have to notice the point that the sudden shut down incident of Google.com by Chinese government in the previous time also resulted in the presentation of a slow as well as less than satisfactory version of Google .com for Chinese users which is also against the original intention of Google to offer all of its users including Chinese users the most satisfactory service when employing Google to search information. Worse still, just because the stoppage incident of Google created by Chinese government in China, the Chinese owned search engine named Baidu has enjoyed a fast development under such kind of opportunity. For instance, till the year of 2006, the market share of Google in China had dropped from 25% to 19.2% while Baidu’s market share in China had shot up from 3% to 63.7%, which resulted in the great loss of Google in Chinese market.

Hence, we may indicate that the decision made by Google to enter China may not only because of the economy attraction but to maintain its position as a world No. 1 search engine not only in the global market but also in Chinese market. And from this aspect, we may support the decision of Google into China and these compromises made by this company to Chinese censorship are reasonable.

2.1.2.2 Ethical aspect

Besides the economy aspect, we can also evaluate the way Google enter into China from the ethical aspect. In the mission of Google, it states out that it is aimed to organize the information and make it accessible as well as useful university for the users globally. From this aspect, we may regard that the action of Google came into the Chinese market is to fulfill its corporate mission to give Chinese users the suitable way to gain information fast, simply as well as universally rather than presenting Chinese users with a slow and less than satisfactory version of Google.com, which is also seemed against the corporate mission of Google. Generally speaking in this aspect, we may find that Google is seemed to be ethical because it plans to assist more Chinese users to enhance their effectiveness in information searching.

At the same time, these compromise made by Google to the censorship regulation in China may also be regarded as more emphasis on economic condition rather than ethical condition. The compromises to censorship of China are such kind of problem for Google, which is seemed against the speech freedom as well as the press freedom for human beings. That is why Google.cn received many objections and doubts even from some its stockholders. Hence, from this aspect, we may regard the way Google enter into the Chinese market may violate these ethical items which are abided by Google for such a long time.

Furthermore, the way Google operates its business in China also differs from that of these competitors including Microsoft and Yahoo. Although Google has make concession to the censorship regulations carried out by the Chinese government, it still insists some level of ethics. For instance, Google tries its best to promote the transparency in information presentation. Although it is seemed impossible for Google.cn to tell these users directly that some certain fields of the information they are searching for are censored, Google still offers users some clues to indicate that the censorship has occurred. Hence from this point, we may also regard that Google has tried its best to maintain some certain level of business ethics compared to other competitors in Chinese market.

At the same time, Google also chose to refrain from products such as Gmail or blogger services as Yahoo or Microsoft operate in China, which was aimed to avoid the situation to disclose some privacy of users to Chinese government under their pressure as Yahoo and Microsoft did. From this part, it may be obvious for us to find out that Google.cn was seemed to give up some profitable chance to stick to some certain degree of its principles as an ethical organization to respect the privacy of its users.

By and large, referring to the entire situation faced by Google to enter the Chinese market, we may define that this organization has also insisted some certain degree of business ethics and it is also a responsible organization for its users in China compared to other competitors as Yahoo and Microsoft and so on.

2.2 Corporate mission and Google.cn

We have discussed above that the corporate mission for Google is to organize the information and make them much easier to be accessed and got by users globally. While at the same time, such kind of market and region as the China with so large population can’t be ignored by Google under the guide of its corporate mission to serve more users in China.

At the same time, Google has been faced with embarrassing situation since the year of 2002 that Chinese government had closed the Google.com for some period, which directly resulted in two kinds of problems for Google. One was that the market share of Google in China had been seized by Baidu.com. The other was that the version of Google in China became so slow and less than satisfactory for Chinese users compared that in the previous time. That is to say, the two kinds of problems faced by Google may all indicate that Google may be unable to actually fulfill its corporate mission to give these Chinese users the chance to experience fantastic experience to gain information as they expected.

For this reason, we may get that the corporate mission of Google is also the factor to promote Google to enter China and set up Google.cn to serve more Chinese users as they expected.

2.3 Reasons to enter China

Based on the information from this case, we may find out there are at least two kinds of reasons to promote the launch of Google in Chinese market.

For one thing, the great profitability potential in Chinese market promotes Google to set up Google.cn in China. For example, the internet users were expected to 250 million or above in China in 2010 and a large number of mobile phone users which may also employ internet to gain expected information via their mobile phones. At the same time these international competitors of Google including Yahoo, Microsoft and others have already entered the Chinese market and gain more and more profits, which also become an attractive point to attract Google’s attention. Hence, we defined the economy factor as one of the reason for Google to enter into the Chinese market, because although Google often claims it is a responsible organization, its ultimate aim as a profitable organization is still to make more profit for its shareholders. That is why Google still chooses to enter into the market of China, although this market is full f risks and uncertainties (Helft & Barboza 2010).

For the other, one of the core value and mission for Google is to offer users in the global market with the fast and brief experience via Google to gain their expected information. While for Google, China is so huge market, which more than 13 billion population, that in this market so many people are there ready to be served by Google. That is why Google can’t avoid the attraction from the Chinese market (Helft & Barboza 2010).

2.4 Conclusion

In the above analysis, we can get the following conclusions based on the case of Google in China.

On the one hand, we have to admit the fact that Google may not act as it stated to organize the information and make them much easier to be accessed and got by users globally, because Google has made compromise in Chinese market to censor some certain kinds of information for Chinese users.

On the other hand, we still can’t define that what Google has practised in Chinese market is against its motto “Don’t be Evil”. Google did so different from its competitors had done in China. For example, Google has given up building up its blog and Gmail in this market, although setting up these auxiliary products may bring greater profit for Google. The reason for this kind of behavior was stated by Google as it was unwilling to sell the privacy of its users to get in profit as Yahoo and Microsoft. In a word, this kind of decision and behavior practised by Google in Chinese market are ethical, which isn’t evil.

By and large, although there are some problems or inevitable conditions for Google to deal with, the entire performance of Google in Chinese market is still fit for its motto of “don’t be evil” at some certain level.

3.0 Chinese censorship system and Google

3.1 Censorship in China

3.1.1 Introduction

China has been under the government of the communist party since its foundation in 1949 (Rourke, Harris & Ogilvy 2007). Under the government of this party, the political sensitivity is always maintained in a high level, which finally results in the establishment of a strict censorship system under the control of the Ministry of Public Service (MPS) in China.

The responsibilities of this government organization are to prevent, suppress as well as investigate these criminal activities which may arouse the panic, insecurity or disorder in Chinese society such as the terrorist activities. Moreover, with the fast development of the technology especially the network and internet related technology, more and more Chinese people become the netizens, which indicates the speed, access and type for Chinese internet users to gain expected information are upgraded compared to the previous time. Hence, the supervision level on the security of information spread on the internet for Chinese users are also strengthened.

In the year of 2000, the Golden Shield Project was introduced by The MPS to support Chinese regulate the order of internet users in China, which was aimed to strict regulate the information flowing in China. Besides, Chinese government also requires these internet services providers to fulfill the self-censorship requirement on the information they offer to Chinese users. To make these providers actually obey the regulation, Chinese government make use of various means of penalties and threats to ensure the clean content inside in the information on internet in the region of China.

Under such kind of strong controlling force, the internet order in Chinese region is well manipulated and controlled by Chinese government.

3.1.2 Success

Frankly speaking, the censorship system established by Chinese government can be defined as success.

At first, only in the year 2006, 90% of the websites or information about “Tiananmen massacre”, 31% sites about the Tibet independent issue, 82% of the websites promoting negative image of the former president of Jiang Zemin and other political issues against the communist party in China were blocked successfully, which shows the success of the censorship system in China, because it produced the expected results.

Secondly, the self-censorship policy for these internet service players also produce expected consequences. The major internet service providers in China including Yahoo, Microsoft, Baidu and Google have all made full commitment to the censorship policies of Chinese government. For instance, these internet service providers in China have been cooperating with Chinese government to censor these sensitive issues or information disfavored by Chinese government, which further strengthen the steadiness of the internet order in China. Moreover, the privacy disclosure incident that Yahoo and Microsoft had turned over the privacy information about their Chinese users to Chinese government and finally resulted in these users put into prison, which further prove the success of Chinese censorship and its influence power.

By and large, we have to admit that the censorship system in China is successful which produce the expected consequences. For instance, not only Chinese government but also these internet service providers in China obey the censorship regulation strictly. Hence, we may regard this censorship system in China is successful.

In other word, just because the strict regulation and punishment carried out by Chinese government as well as the support from the modern technology, Chinese censorship can work so well.

3.2 Google VS Chinese censorship system

3.2.1 Google had done in the past

Before actually launching Google.cn, Google had begun its journey long time ago. For instance, till the year of 2002, the Chinese users employing Google.com were made up of two kinds of groups including white collar and pro-western Chinese business people, which took up the market share about 25% in China. And meanwhile, before the year of 2002, Google.com enjoyed relatively high popularity among Chinese users, because they could get the information as they expected via the platform of this search engine. But, at that time Google didn’t enter the Chinese market actually. Hence, Google’s journey in China was approximate to the form it used in the global market including America that they offered users the accesses to any information they expected without censor, because they believed in the importance of human rights.

In a word, before the entering of Chinese market officially, Google acted sticking to its corporate mission and ethical code.

3.2.2 The changes made by Google in China

Due to the market loss and obstruction by Chinese government, the development and reputation of Google.com in China had reduced to the bottom, which promoted this organization to make up the decision to enter Chinese market. Hence, during the year of 2006, Google.cn was launched in China officially.

But the official journey of Google in China is full of Challenges and risks. On the one hand, Chinese government has established strict censorship system to examine the security and order of the information flowing via the internet and websites. On the other hand, Chinese government also requires every internet service providers including Yahoo and Microsoft and so on to operate the self-censorship on these banned information. And even these providers may face the situation that Chinese government may ask them for the private information of these users as Yahoo and Microsoft once encountered.

That is to say, the decision made by Google to enter into the Chinese market indicates that Google may have no choice in the future as Yahoo or Microsoft have faced at the present that it may have to move out or censor some sensitive or unfavorable information or website access to Chinese users. It means Google may fail to fulfill its original mission to full respect the speech freedom as well as the press freedom to offer all of the information accesses to these Chinese internet users as they expected (Tsai 2011)

To meet such kind of challenges and stick to what it always sticks to, Google also figure out its own way in Chinese market. On the one hand, Google makes compromise to the censorship system of China, which was even regarded to be against the original corporate mission to respect the freedom of speech as well as the freedom of press compared its operation in other regional market such as in the USA (Hu 2012). On the other hand, Google also maintains its bottom line to refuse to be forced to disclose the private information about its users in China to the Chinese government. Hence, Google didn’t establish these related internet service products for its users such as the Gmail or blog as Microsoft or Yahoo did to avoid the unexpected situation (Hu 2012).

3.2.3 Evaluation on Google in China

Where does Google fit into this system? Has Google worked to improve the situation? What more could it do?

Witnessing these changes and adjustment made by Google in Chinese market, we may find out that these comprises and adjustment made Google.cn become more and more suitable to the Chinese market. For example, compared to the previous performance of Google.com in Chinese market, we may find that Google obey to the regulation referring to the censorship system made by Chinese government and come up with the self-censorship standard based on these regulations of Chinese government. And at the same time, Google is also skillful to manage the ethical dilemma that it gives some clues to its Chinese users on the occurrence of the censor on some of their expected information. Due to this kind of skillful and relatively ethical management of the Chinese search version Google.cn, Google has regained some of its losing market share from its competitors including Microsoft, Yahoo and Baidu and so on (Thomas 2010).

Generally speaking, from the achievement made by Google.cn in Chinese and some changes made by this world No.1 search engine, its management and operation manner in China can be regard as fitful to some certain degree.

While, at the same time, there are also shortages and weaknesses requiring Google to make some improvement to be better suitable for this complicated market and gain better performance (Hu 2012).

3.2.4 Recommendations to Google.cn

Although Google has done properly in Chinese market to both make compromise to Chinese censorship system and maintain its bottom line, we still want to offer this search engine more suggestions to facilitate its future development road in China.

At first, Google.cn had better enlarge its talent pool and employ more talents with Chinese working or education background, who can support Google to understand the Chinese market more thoroughly and reasonably (Hamilton, Knouse & Hill 2009).

Secondly, compared to its greatest rival-Baidu.com which is a local born search engine in China, it becomes the biggest advantage of this Chinese enterprise. To gain more market share from this rival, Google should learn more from this Chinese enterprise from not only human resource management, marketing strategy but also the manner to get along with Chinese authority and customers. Hence, we suggest Google to localize itself to be more fitful this market. On the one hand, the management of Google in China should intake more local talents especially the management talents rather than these America Chinese, Canadian Chinese and so on, who may not really understand the Chinese market actually. On the other hand, Google may inject more Chinese characteristics into the Google.cn as KFC once did. In Baidu.com, there are so many additional services designed for Chinese users including the post bar, chatting rooms, Baidu Encyclopedia, and other attractive services for Chinese users. While for Google, these services in China including Google scholar, Google pictures, Google Map, Google news and so on, which are various but lacking the attraction for Chinese users. Hence, Google had better spend more time and energy on reaching and developing its service for Chinese market and the Chinese customers. (Hamilton, Knouse & Hill 2009)

Thirdly, we recommend Google to enhance the effectiveness of the marketing strategy especially the promotion strategy to improve the influence power of the Google brand in the mind of Chinese users. Based on the research from Exley (2011), Google.cn has taken up more than 20% search market of in China with only by 8.9 % advertising market in China compared to Baidu.com. From this aspect, we may find that Google should work much harder to improve its market share in adverting market to gain more customers to run ads on Google.cn to improve both the brand reputation and profitability level.

Fourthly, in information access aspect, the weaknesses as well as strengths of Google may also be discovered by Chinese users. The strength of Google.cn is that its access to some foreign websites of China is fast and rich, which meet a large proportion of the needs for Chinese customers in foreign information searching compared to Baidu. And the weak point is that these accesses to the domestic information or news of China offered by Google are relatively slow and in a shortage compared to Baidu. Hence, we recommend Google to take the two points into full consideration. On the one hand, Google.cn should try its best to maintain its advantage over other competitors. Meanwhile, Google is also recommended to improve the information sufficiency and searching speed to the accesses of domestic information and websites in China. Only by this way, may Google gain a much promising future in Chinese market. (Xu & Wei 2010)

4.0 Reference

Exley, J. 2011, What did Google do wrong in China, Johnexleyonline.com, viewed 23 August 2012,

Helft, M. & Barboza, D. 2010, Google shuts China site in dispute over censorship, New York Times,

Hamilton, J. B., Knouse, S. B. & Hill, V. 2009, Google in China: A manager-friendly heuristic model for resolving cross-cultural ethical conflicts, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 86, no. 2,

Hu, D. 2012, The availability of open access journals in the humanities and social sciences in China, Journal of Information Science,

Sun, C. 2009, Study on the Communist Party of China bringing leading core function into play during our country’s democratic politics construction, Journal of Shenyang Institute of Engineering,

Rourke, J., Harris, B. & Ogilvy, A. 2007, Google in China: government censorship and corporate reputation, Journal of Business Strategy,

Thomas, T. L. 2010, Google Confronts China’s Three Warfares, Journal of Information Science,

Trevino, L. K. & Nelson, K. A. 2011, Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey,

Tsai, K. 2011, How to create international law: The case of internet freedom in China, Journal of Comparative & International Law,

Xu, C. & Wei, C. S. 2010, Suggestions on China’s internet policy——Taking Google case as an example, Journal of Chongqing Technology and Business University,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.