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Sergey Brin On Google and China 368

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the to-famous-for-slashdot dept.
yuhong writes "The NY Times has an interview with Sergey Brin on Google and China. A few quotes from it: 'Mr. Brin lived in the Soviet Union until he was nearly 6 years old, and he said the experience of living under a totalitarian system that censored political speech influenced his thinking — and Google's policy. "It has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company's views," he said.' Yes, business is personal, especially these days."
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Sergey Brin On Google and China

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  • Anger? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mahiskali (1410019) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @08:42AM (#31596788)

    Seems like the Chinese government may be winning here. They clearly are great at enticing (forcing?) a sense of nationalism and pride [bbc.co.uk] in their people. Amazing how quickly some are turning on Google as if this is entirely their own fault and doing. Now we wait to see if the US Government tries to step in...oh what a show this is becoming.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FlyingBishop (1293238)

      The Hong Kong move pretty much nukes that strategy. Now China is allowing access to some of its citizens, but not others. Google is not at fault for the blocking.

    • by rvw (755107)

      Seems like the Chinese government may be winning here.

      To me it seems like we are winning some of our respect back. I'm glad that a company like Google makes a stand. Do no evil means a lot more now.

    • Re:Anger? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:02AM (#31597000)
      You could see the same thing about the protestors that interrupted the torch carrying ceremonies prior to the Beijing olympics. Most chinese didn't view those as a criticism of the their government, but as an attach on chinese people. To say that Americans are used to people criticizing the U.S. government is an understatement, but this is not so in China. I'm tempted to chalk a lot of it up to the immersive indoctrination and political thought control that goes on in China, e.g. every Chinese college student has to take Mao Ze Dong thought, Deng Xiaoping thought, as well as military tactics and strategy. However, there's also a deep seated insecurity in the Chinese people -- for some reason they can easily interpret criticism of their government as a criticism of them. I can't tell if that itself is due to propaganda campaigns waged by the government or what though. Sometimes the U.S. government does this too, e.g. when G.W. Bush & Co painted anyone who criticized the attacks on Iraq as an unpatriotic traitor, including places like France, but also U.S. citizens.
      • Re:Anger? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Reservoir Penguin (611789) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:59PM (#31600752)
        China is not unique there. Just try to criticize Israel w/o being accused of being of antisemitism.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Now we wait to see if the US Government tries to step in...oh what a show this is becoming.

      Huh? Why would the US government have any interest, whatsoever, in getting involved in this little spat? I can see absolutely no reason why the US government would do that, and at least one good reason not to: they'd just end up looking like nosy assholes who just can't seem to stay out of other people's business.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mahiskali (1410019)

        What I mean stems from this: "On April 15, the US Treasury will be required by law to issue a report naming countries deemed to be “currency manipulators.”" [csmonitor.com].

        If the report names China as a currency manipulator that creates vast trade deficits to benefit their economy (which, for all intents and purposes, they are [google.com]), you can bet the Chinese government will lash out and claim we are protecting and siding with our corporations.

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          Ahh, your post was rather misleading, then. :) Your phrase "step in" seemed to imply that the US government would somehow get directly involved in the Google-China spat, and I really don't see that happening.

          However, I *do* think there's a good chance that the US will finally point out China's blatant currency manipulation, as momentum for that has been building for some time, both domestically and internationally.

    • Re:Anger? (Score:5, Informative)

      by WindowlessView (703773) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:15AM (#31597162)

      > Now we wait to see if the US Government tries to step in...oh what a show this is becoming.

      Granted Slashdot is tech oriented but you can't look at the Google episode in isolation and expect to understand the entirety of it. Grievances with China have been building for a decade now. Things changed drastically when the Chinese insulted Obama during his trip to Beijing last November and they followed it up by publicly embarrassing him when they sunk the Copenhagen accords a month later. Eyes were opened and whatever goodwill between the Obama administration and China evaporated. The two countries may make token efforts to get along where they can but things have fundamentally changed and it has to do with much bigger economic issues than just Google.

      Put the Google stuff (which first emerged shortly thereafter) in this context. People can argue endlessly about whether Google is being hypocritical on flip-flopping on censorship. It is besides the point. The real issue here is corporate espionage, fair play in Chinese market, trade issues, etc.

      The next big thing is due out on April 15th. No, not your taexs. The Treasury department is due to release its biannual report on cheating trade nations. Even though China should have been on that list semi-permanently for a decade or more the US has always allowed them to slide. The big question is whether they allow it again this time. If China goes on the list it the first step to trade sanctions and possibly tariffs on Chinese goods. If you read the new lately China is screaming bloody murder and throwing every smoke bomb in their arsenal out to the press.

      So yeah, this show is becoming interesting but it going to be much bigger than Google.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sycorob (180615)

        I've been thinking this for awhile. I'm sure executives at Google didn't love having to do censorship in China (it's gotta create a bunch of busywork for the developers, if nothing else), but they went along with it for awhile. However, if I was running a company in China, and it became painfully obvious that the government was trying to hack my systems to get the identities of protesters and try to steal my IP, and at the same time blatantly helping out my local competition ... that sounds like a loosing g

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I am really curious how the Chinese people are reacting to this, but that BBC article doesn't do it for me. It just says some side with google, some against, but how could it be otherwise? Those who side with the government, I wonder why? Is it that they feel the blocked content is harmful and therefore should be blocked? Is it that they see google as an outsider which is out of place trying to change their government? Are they suspicious the whole thing is just a publicity stunt by google? Do they si
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @08:42AM (#31596790)
    I get the feeling this whole showdown is a Larry and Sergey thing. And that Eric Schmidt is against it, and probably the rest of the board is as well. They would rather be pusillanimous like John Chambers and just make as much money off China as possible, even if it means aid and abet totalitarianism and not standing for anything except quarterly share price (again: see John Chambers).


    I applaud refusing to censor information on the internet, this is a line in the sand they have drawn, to perhaps 'do no evil' and in Slashdot spirit we should all be behind it....
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tisha_AH (600987)

      I too agree with Google's decision to back out of mainland China until the regime decides to grant greater freedoms on information for their people.

      You have to take a stand for something. I think that this is a honorable position for Google to take and it improves my opinion of them as a company and of the executives who are going to catch the flack from investors over their decision.

  • by Johnny Fusion (658094) <zenmondo@NOspam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @08:43AM (#31596802) Homepage Journal
    Why did Google initially agree to censor search results in the first place if this was their philosophy? I am certain they have made money in China, they would not have gone there for altruistic purposes of giving China good search results and web based email if there was not profit in it. Sure they have the philosophy "Don't Be Evil" but they got in bed with China to do business there. Only after the Aurora Exploit did they finally say enough is enough. Taking an anti-censorship stance only AFTER the Aurora attacks makes it seem retaliatory to me. They got a bruised eye from the neighborhood bully and then after playing along fine for quite some time decided they wanted to pick up their ball and go home. I would have been more impressed if Google uncensored their search results from the beginning instead of reacting to overt actions from China to their bottom line.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:18AM (#31597182) Homepage

      Why did Google initially agree to censor search results in the first place if this was their philosophy?

      Because Google isn't a monolithic entity with a singular set of unified values? Instead, it's an organization of individuals, with varying viewpoints, and those individuals will wield different levels of power at different times.

      In this particular case, my money is on Schmidt and the board overriding Larry and Sergei on the censorship issue based on the obvious business case of moving into China. Plus, they may have been able to rationalize the move by telling themselves that they might be able to do some good in the country by operating there (many people who criticize Google for threatening to leave China do so based on precisely this principle).

      But now that there's an obvious business reason *not* to operate in China (the threat of being hacked by individuals whose actions may or may not have been sanctioned by the government), Larry and Sergei find themselves in the position to steer Google, the organization, in a different direction.

      At least, that's my read of the situation. But I'm obviously biased, in that I don't start off with the supposition that Google is a fundamentally evil, heartless, money-grubbing mega-corporation that's willing to do anything for a buck, as so many around here seem to think.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Getting their foot in the door, maybe?

      Or possibly the result of an internal power shift within Google. Plenty of sources have indicated that there are mixed opinions within Google on the issue.

    • by EXTomar (78739) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:35AM (#31597446)

      There has been a history of officials over there going "We have these rules but we can negotiate and work out what is necessary for you to come and do business here". Although it isn't new or exclusive to China to have a government just change the rules out from under people or companies "just because" some of the scales are quite egregious. So I wouldn't be surprised if Google says "We like to come to China but censored searches messes with our technology" while their government said "We have our differences for the moment but setup shop here and we can work it out later". Later is now here and it didn't help they have a hunch where the hacking attacks are coming from....

      I wonder if the best idea is for Google to stay in China but make it super apparent what is going on. When one access google.(country code) they should see the usual localized Google. When one access google.cn, they should see "Results Filtered" immediately below. Click on that and get a brief, exact, and legal citation explaining why the quality of service is effected. The Chinese net users won't be in favor of Google's actions unless they are aware of how it effects them. If they can't show them what they are missing, the next best thing is to let them know they are missing out where the worst would be pulling the plug.

    • Well, not only were they apparently hacked; but, they were (their data was) being used to find information on potential dissidents. This may have pushed too far beyond what they initially considered an acceptable bending of their principles.
  • ...was that there's always someone who ends up controlling the flow of information, so that someone might as well be you.

  • by Exitar (809068)

    he lived in Soviet Union until he was nearly 6 years old only after some guy from China cracked some Gmail accounts?
    Chinese government surely was fine before that accident because Google censored results without thinking twice about it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      First off, for the love of jesus, do you *really* have to start your sentences in the subject line? Because that's not cool or nifty. It's just plain fucking annoying.

      Anyway, back to the topic at hand...

      Did Brin remembered he lived in Soviet Union until he was nearly 6 years old only after some guy from China cracked some Gmail accounts?

      No, more likely Larry and Sergei were overruled during the initial move into China by Schmidt and the board. Then following the hacks, suddenly they found themselves in

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        No, more likely Larry and Sergei were overruled during the initial move into China by Schmidt and the board.

        Shows what you know.
        A) Schmidt, Larry, and Sergei don't have to listen to a board because they own enough stock that their opinions are the only ones that matter
        B) Any two of them can outvote the third + common stock holders.

        This isn't an accident... they set up the company that way. When you buy Google stock, you're essentially buying a non-voting share of their collective brain power.

  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomad-9 (1423689) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:04AM (#31597024)
    "Yes, business is personal, especially these days." Right. Google was losing market share in China. I bet that if it wasn't, business wouldn't have gotten anywhere near being "personal".

    And what's that special "experience" of a totalitarian regime a child can get from the moment he's born up to 6 years old? Please.

    A corporation's goal is to increase its profits & market shares. Trying to make it pass as some kind of moral authority is at best a marketing trick for image polishing, and at worst utter hypocrisy.

    • "A corporation's goal is to increase its profits & market shares."

      This is, of course, by order of the US court system, and coincidentally a result of a similar attempt by Ford to use his corporation spread a certain ethical principle:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_v._Ford_Motor_Company [wikipedia.org]
      • by Abcd1234 (188840)

        Except, of course, if you actually read *all* of the article, and not just the bits that confirm your beliefs, you'd see this bit:

        The contested actions of Henry Ford that led to this decision can also be viewed as a conscious attempt to squeeze out his minority shareholders, especially the Dodge brothers, whom he suspected (correctly) of using their Ford dividends to build a rival car company. By cutting off their dividends, Ford hoped to starve the Dodges of capital to fuel their growth. In that context,

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:29AM (#31597362) Homepage

      A corporation's goal is to increase its profits & market shares. Trying to make it pass as some kind of moral authority is at best a marketing trick for image polishing, and at worst utter hypocrisy.

      Bullshit. Every corporation has a charter which outlines the goals of the organization. Many of those charters include a "public good" clause, which is why corporations are often large charity contributors (other than the obvious tax benefits).

      There is absolutely *nothing* about the "corporation" structure that disallows moral behaviour, and there are many organizations out there that try to be good corporate citizens. Are those organizations in the minority? Maybe, I don't know. But your fundamental supposition that "A corporation's goal is to increase its profits & market share" and that "Trying to make it pass as some kind of moral authority is at best a marketing trick for image polishing" is complete crap.

  • 6 years old (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raind (174356) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:15AM (#31597154)

    Was he at 6 years even know where or what the politics of the country was? If so wow.

    • Re:6 years old (Score:5, Interesting)

      by funwithBSD (245349) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @09:40AM (#31597536)

      I could have modded, but I rather post on this one.

      My first wife was from Czechsolvakia. At 6, she definitely knew the impact of the Communist regime she lived under. (I found out later her father was an honest to god Nazi Youth during the occupation. That is in part why they were so prosecuted by the Party)

      I clearly remember the Nixon resignation which happened when I was 5, and the Carter administration/hyperinflation. (I can still recall hearing that at current rates bread would be $300 a loaf in 10 years, and I knew that was more than my parents mortgage)
      I remember discussing both at length with my uncle, who I still have long political discussions with on a regular basis.

      For some people, it is a integral part of our lives to pay attention to politics and social issues.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Petrushka (815171)

      It's not just about politics and current events, it's about culture as well. I get that. Look at it this way: when you were 6, had your parents taught you not to accept rides or candy from strangers? Well, imagine that kind of thing, plus being taught one or more of the following:

      • that there are things you must (never) say when someone in a uniform asks you a question
      • that the man accompanying the class on the field trip works for the government
      • not to mention that your aunt married a Jewish man
      • not to mention
  • Not impressed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:05AM (#31598924)

    The attitude prevalent around here seems to be one of gushing praise towards Google, like they've completely defied the Chinese government and are standing by their principles. Really, the only difference this move affords Google is that they are no longer mandated by the Chinese government to censor their search. It now falls on the Chinese government to do whatever they want to do.

    Google hasn't actually left mainland China. Their research and sales divisions have remained behind. And their map services, music portal and Gmail servers all remain in China. So I'm left with the impression that this is a publicity stunt likely driven by a number of business-related issues. Gmail hosting remaining on the mainland doesn't even address one of the issues of spying on users.

    Certainly, such a public action does make a statement, but I wouldn't necessarily consider Google principled any more than any other corporation. Profits are still king and they aren't willing to give up China.

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