Monday, March 22, 2010

Google, China and Change . . .

      Google has pushed back against China and has defied the search censorship by Beijing. Google has closed and moved their base of operations to Hong Kong. The website now referes Web users to  

       It will be quite interesting to see how China will counter this move by Google. The uncensored searches available to Chinese citizens will undoubtedly a revelation to many whose news of the world has always been carefully filtered by Beijing.  It brings to mind the old phrase "How you gonna em down on the farm after they've see Paris".  It isn't just political and world news that will spin some heads in China, it is also social, medical, fashion, technological, religious, movies, music, sports, consumer and environmental websites that will alter long held perception of the west and the world.

      While China has moved to block social network sites like facebook, myspace and twitter, the efforts are doomed to failure because of the inherent nature of many western non-commercial website. The basic model for many of these sites is social in nature, and while they may not be interactive like the SNS that are banned, many have message boards and all have e-mail addreses, not to mention the thousands of webcams around the world.  Western websites are visually rich,  and so, even without being able to read English, French, Spanish or Italian a great deal of information can be gleaned from the pictures of  life in the west.

      Chinese web surfers may have limited access to giving feedback on many western sites, but, what they learn in viewing these sites, will change perceptions of the west.  It will also change what young Chinese websurfers will consider as their place in the world, and what they will want to see made available to them in China.  Whether Beijing likes it or not, the days of China's long blackout of outside influences, is over.

      Google's move to Hong Kong is not surprising. Hong Kong has been both China's western face and China's window on the west for a long time, and the departure of the British has not altered that reality, Hong Kong remains uniquely Hong Kong. Many of the former Hong Kong companies have relocated in Vancouver, Canada, and others have entered into inter-continental relationships and have expanded into the west.  This kind of collaberation is already shifting perception in Asia and the west.  Google's expanded presence in Hong Kong is sure to have a substantitive impact on China and South-East Asia.  

       Does Google's move signal the beginning of a more independant mood among tech companies who have a substantial presence in China?  Can and will China allow Google to proceed with their plans unchecked, or will Beijing push back hard?  These are questions that remain to be answered, but one thing is for sure, China and their relationship with the world is changing.  China;s aggressive aquisitions in Africa and Latin America, as well as other countries is placing Chinese workers and China's business practices and customs, around the world.  China is currently attempting to gain a monopoly on the World's Copper supply.   

      The Dragon has awakened, the question now is whether the Dragon can roam the World and still control the contents of its own nest.