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Google and China’s Internet Search Engine Market, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 715

Essay

With regard to Google’s sense of weaknesses and strengths when it chose to enter the Chinese Internet search market, there is an inevitable awareness that the company employed a strategy likely to fail.  Google first made its services available to China in 2000, and it opened its first Chinese office in 2005.  From the start, conflict, and of a significant kind, was generated because the Chinese government insisted on censorship policies in stark contrast to both Google’s mode of providing services and Western concepts regarding freedom of access to any type of content (ICMR, 2010).  On one level, Google certainly had a major strength on its side; it has steadily evolved into the primary, global supplier of Internet search options. On another, and as the way the company’s trajectory in China has thus far played out, it appears that Google relied on a strength not necessarily available to it; more exactly, and based upon the company’s success in non-communist arenas, it seem probable that Google relied on consumer influence to offset governmental restrictions.

This assumption indicates the massive weakness in the Google strategy, and it is an assumption that may be determined through the ensuing conflicts.  For example, when Chinese censorship began to make its demands, Google co-founder Sergey Brin did not equivocate as to the company’s response; it was in his eyes a version of totalitarianism, and Brin attempted to encourage Google’s adopting a more resistant stance (Efrati, Chao, 2012).   The company, however, was hesitant to engage in what would be a non-commercial, and largely political, dispute, and Google then resigned itself to a minor presence in China.  Offices were maintained and Internet search facilities were available for Chinese consumers, but the impact was marginal. At the same time, China was moving forward in a way irresistible to Google.   As of September, 2012, there are over 500 million Internet users in China, as compared to 225 million in the United States (Efrati, Chao, 2012).  This is, in plain terms, not a demographic Google is willing to pass by, so it is seeking to modify its anti-censorship stance and consequently gain governmental approval.

Nonetheless, the same issues remain, and it is interesting to note how this arena of commerce directly reflects larger cultural and political conflicts.  As of 2011, for example, and despite its intent to appease Chinese authorities, the relationship between Google and the nation is marked by tension.  Google actually drew attention to an alleged infiltration by Chinese officials of private account information held by U.S. officials and human rights activists;  the Chinese response was outrage at the accusations (Efrati, Chao, 2012).   However the Google scenario in China is examined, it seems inescapable that Google greatly underestimated the impact, if not actual threat, of the government’s presence.  As of 2012, and despite the company’s unwillingness to abandon so potentially vast a market, Google’s market share in mainland China has dropped to 17 percent, from 35.6 percent several years ago (Wines, 2012).   In June of 2012, Google added software that warns users when the content at hand, or search attempted, is likely to be censored, and it is equally likely that the reaction of Chinese authorities will be unfavorable (Wines, 2012).

What this results to is a continual, and largely insoluble, arms race between a Western, corporate entity reflecting Western values and a vast foreign market reflecting opposing ones.  If Google may turn to any asset remaining, it is the non-commercial one of social unrest:  “Despite the prevalence of government censorship, the Web is increasingly an outlet for Chinese citizens to share information and express discontent, including about the government”  (Efrati, Chao, 2012).    This goes to the ultimate dilemma in the Google/China scenario.  If Google abandons China, it will be the first major company to do so because of freedom of speech issues (ICMR, 2010).  Consequently, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Google, massive entity that it is, refused to consider the ramifications of offering a service based on Western freedoms to a nation that does not observe them.

References

Efrati, Amir, & Chao, Loretta.  (2012). “Google Softens Tone on China.” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203436904577155003097277514.html

IBS Center for Management Research (ICMR). (2010). “Google’s Problem’s in China.” Retrieved from http://www.icmrindia.org/casestudies/catalogue/Business%20Strategy/BSTR374.htm

Wines, Michael. (2012).  “Google to Alert Users to Chinese Censorship.”  The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/world/asia/google-to-alert-users-to-chinese-censorship.html?_r=0

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