Google's Experience in China
Modern Internet users have a chance to easily access any information through multiple browsers. This facilitated approach is very helpful for scientific researches, studies, professional activities, and entertainment. However, numerous search engines, trying to enter new markets and cover more areas, may conflict with censorship, as well as cultural and ethical values of other countries. This paper will consider Google's negative experience of entering the Chinese market and focus on issues that violated business ethics.
Since China is a country with fast-growing economy, it arouses the interest of thousands of investors. Google decided to enter the Chinese market, not taking into consideration the fact that the wealth of the Chinese nation and strict censorship related to violation of personal freedoms harmonically coexist in the country. The famous “Great Firewall of China” led to a serious ethical conflict between Google and the Chinese government (Kim & Douai, 2012). First of all, it is important to consider organizational dynamics and culture of Google that led to the discussed confrontation. Noviantoro, analyzing Google’s culture and dynamics, stated that it has created a unique environment for its employees aimed at constant motivation and improvement. The decisions in the company are made in teams and there is no senior person, who decides everything and gives orders (Noviantoro, 2014). One of Google’s founders Sergey Brin says, “I actually don’t think keeping the culture is a goal. I think improving the culture is” (Noviantoro, 2014, para. 18). Thus, organizational dynamics of Google is a system of highly professional employees with team goals and well-developed HR management based on equality. Unsurprisingly, these features contradicted the Chinese methods to censor all media resources. After entering China in 2005, Google became a topic of wide discussion. “Google was twice accused by the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center (CIIIRC) of providing search results with links to explicit and pornographic websites, which were prohibited by Chinese regulators to maintain cultural and social standards for Chinese Internet users” (Tan & Tan, 2012, p. 473). Since all countries prohibit the spread of pornographic materials, the problem is not new. However, the issue became large-scale because of a special attention given to Google in strictly conservative China. Operation Aurora, initiated in China against Google with an attempt to modify the company’s core resources, was an open attack at Google’s intellectual property. However, in order to soften the conflict, Google named it an ethical issue. Thus, Google’s organizational dynamics, oriented at development and consumers’ satisfaction, became a reason of cross-cultural ethical conflicts in China.
Considering the case of Google, it is possible to speak about business ethics issues involved in China. “The most fundamental or essential ethical issues that businesses must face are integrity and trust” (Oster, n. d., para. 1). There is no doubt that Google’s employees follow this principle, but, in fact, the integrity of the corporation was put in danger. As it was mentioned before, Google tried to close its eyes to the Chinese cyber-attacks and make them look as an ethical issue. However, in 2010, the company’s CEOs issued a couple of articles, the general idea of which was “[that Google would no longer continue censoring its results on Google.cn’’ and that censorship of its services [would cease entirely (Tan & Tan, 2012, p. 474). The answer of the Chinese government was logic and simple: “[ all multinational corporations in China must ‘‘obey laws and regulations, respect Chinese culture, traditions and public interests, and uphold their social responsibilities’’ (Tan & Tan, 2012, p. 474). One more important business ethical principle is diversity. This principle was implemented by Google with the help of hiring diverse workforce and giving them equal opportunities for professional development, as well as a chance to have a comfortable workplace (Oster, n. d., para. 3). DesJardins and MacCall are sure that all ethical beliefs are connected with a certain culture (DesJardines & MacCall, 2014). “We must be careful not to confuse tolerance and respect for diversity with relativism. ] (DesJardines & MacCall, 2014, p. 3). Therefore, the Chinese do not consider the principle of diversity as important as it is for Google. The greatest lesson regarding business that Google has learned in China is the fact that implementing all principles of business ethics is sometimes impossible in a certain cultural and political environment, no matter how hard a company tries to do it.
The actions of Google’s management seemed to be a little confusing from the very beginning. The reason for this may be the fact that the company was not completely ready to meet a “firewall” of such strength. At first, Google made successive steps not to contradict a stable Internet censorship policy developed in China. Thus, “[ in 2007, Google started to cooperate with large local firms, such as China Mobile and Tianya, to localize its businesses. Google also developed entirely new products geared toward the Chinese market [ (Tan & Tan, 2012, p. 472). The Chinese population was glad to become aware of Google’s plans, but, at the same time, expressed its opposition to the Internet censorship and wanted to have Google engine without any limits. Therefore, Google’s management faced a new dilemma since it had to become an integral part of a mixed social environment of China and to find a balance between the company’s business interests and ethical issues.
The Chinese government and numerous censorship inspections did not give Google a chance to progress steadily. After mentioned cyber-attacks, Google had to change its behavior to demonstrate that it functions normally and without limits in China. Hence, it had to reject all artificially created barriers and violate the principle of diversity, ceasing to recruit Chinese employees. The company received complete support on the part of the U.S. government and developed a wonderful reputation in the eyes of other multinationals as a responsible corporation (Tan & Tan, 2012). Such an open confrontation led Google to logic pulling out from China. Google's managerial techniques were reasonable and quite appropriate for the business climate in China. A number of concessions made by Google expressed the company's respect to the Chinese customs and laws. Moreover, these concessions did not violate principles of Google's business ethics. Unfortunately, the Chinese government did not approve of all the measures taken by Google and initiated a number of inspections and attacks. It was dissatisfied with the fact that Google was gaining popularity among the Chinese. Therefore, Google's management had to occupy an aggressive position and, in consequence, to withdraw the company from the territory of China. It is possible to state that even Google's experienced managers did not find the correct administrative clues for peaceful coexistence of the corporation and the Chinese laws.
The last aspect of this paper is to determine, which factors helped Google reinforce its business ethics. As it was mentioned before, Google followed certain ethical principles that promoted its integrity within the entire period when the company was trying to become successful in China. The corporation had some difficulties in observing the principle of diversity. However, the greatest problem was caused by violating compliance and governance aspects as “businesses are expected to fully comply with environmental laws, federal and state safety regulations, fiscal and monetary reporting statutes and all applicable civil rights laws” (Oster, n. d., para. 4 ). It was just impossible for Google to be in complete agreement with the Chinese legislation as it violated ethical issues, which were the most essential for the company. All companies have to face the dilemma of ethics and profit, especially when they enter new markets (Tan & Tan, 2012). Google aimed at receiving as much profit as possible and seeing positive customer feedback as its number one priority. Therefore, it could not afford to sacrifice it all for the sake of entering the Chinese market that stipulated rough conditions for the company. It is logical that Tan J. and Tan A. E. (2012) state that, “it is irresponsible to place the entire burden of ethical conduct on Google, considering the unusual regulatory challenges and compliance expectations it faced from the Chinese government” (p. 478). Thus, it is possible to state that the main issues of business ethics, such as the company’s integrity, harmonic management, and diversity, were observed by Google from the very beginning.
However, the Chinese government interfered with the company’s development in its territory and called Google unethical. Nevertheless, the corporation managed to reinforce these principles for itself, making a conclusion that disrespect of business ethics principles makes the conflict even worse.
To conclude, it is worth stating that Google’s experience in China was generally negative. The main ethical principle of Google, as a private company, is obtainment of high profit, following the principles of business ethics. The ethical system of China has been built on censorship and control of freedom of speech. Both Google and the Chinese system have failed as the company did not manage to promote itself in a challenging environment and the state did not elaborate an effective system of the Internet access control. China should develop more accurate regulations for the Internet users, and Google should have some reserved business plans for the most complicated areas it wants to cover.
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