I know a lot of people thought that Google was just talking tough when it said it was considering getting out of the China market and that they'd never actually do it. Wrong. While Google's words don't say that they're pulling out of China, for all intents and purposes they've made a move that squares them off against China's government.
Sure, all Google is doing is switching its mainland China customers to use the uncensored servers in Hong Kong. Yeah, and what the U.S. has been doing in Afghanistan isn't a war either; it's just that there's all this fighting going on there.
This is more than just Google 'slapping China's face. This is Google saying that it will not put up with China attacking it and more than twenty other U.S. companies. This is Google drawing a line in the sand, and saying that we will no longer obey your rules while you attack us and our customers.
What will China do? My colleague Mike Elgan thinks they have three choices: put up with it; block all access to Google; or shut down Google's Hong Kong servers. I don't see it. I can't imagine that China is going to let Google get away with letting their people see what the rest of the world really thinks about China. They'll either close down Google access to their citizens or turn off Hong Kong's servers.
My bet is that they'll pull the big red switch on Hong Kong's servers in the short-run, and in the long run block any Google site from all of China. Hong Kong, which is the de facto financial capital of China will eventually get Google back on, but I don't see anyone else getting access to the outside world via Google.
But, that's only one part of it. I think China will react by trying to ramp up it attacks on Google and anyone else who stands up for Google. To China, this will be seen as the first shot in a cyber war, and they're going to push back as hard as they can. In addition, China will turn them political as fast as possible. I don't even need to see any Chinese news Web sites to know that this is going to be painted as the U.S. government acting through Google.
Did Google make the right move? I think so. It certainly doesn't go with the conventional wisdom of putting up with anything to make money, but isn't it about time that someone stood up and said, "No, we're not going to co-operate with our attackers?" I think so.
Frankly, it's been way past time for Americans to stop putting up with China manufacturers and their American business partners. We've lost millions of manufacturing jobs to China; we know for all intents and purposes that they've been attacking American businesses over the Internet; and is there any real reason that we should trust China's technology in our computers? I think not. Good for you Google. Now, hopefully, some other businesses will start insisting that China deals with the U.S. in a fair and equitable manner.