Argument: Google left China only for business reasons
Sarah Lacy. "Google’s China Stance: More about Business than Thwarting." Tech Crunch. Jan 12, 2010: "1. Google’s business was not doing well in China. Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country? For one thing, I’d guess that would open them up to shareholder lawsuits. Google is a for-profit, publicly-held company at the end of the day. When I met with Google’s former head of China Kai-fu Lee in Beijing last October, he noted that one reason he left Google was that it was clear the company was never going to substantially increase its market share or beat Baidu. Google has clearly decided doing business in China isn’t worth it, and are turning what would be a negative into a marketing positive for its business in the rest of the world."
"Flowers for a funeral." The Economist. Jan 13th 2010: "In Silicon Valley, its home, Google’s change of tack in China was widely applauded. But some were asking whether it was “more about business than thwarting evil” to quote TechCrunch, a widely read website. Besides pointing to Google’s failure to eat into Baidu’s market share, cynics noted that, whereas, according to Mr Drummond, Google’s revenues in China are “truly immaterial”, its costs are not. It employs about 700 people in China, some of them royally paid engineers, who may now may have to look for other jobs. Hacker attacks and censorship, critics say, are convenient excuses for something Google wanted to do anyway, without appearing to be retreating commercially. Google strongly rejects this interpretation."
Rebecca's pocket. "Google's China decision is pragmatic, not idealistic." January 2010: "This is a calculated business opportunity for Google. It can now go to the Chinese government and say "You messed up, and we caught you. We won't do business with any entity that has so little respect for our intellectual property and the privacy of our users. Now, about those censored search results..."
Censoring search results in China brings into question every Google search result around the world. So Google has decided to leverage its knowledge about the origin of these attacks - and Google's value to the Chinese government - to remove a terrific public relations liability, satisfy a matter of conscience for many of its employees, and above all restore its basic business proposition to all of its users.
It is not that there are no good people at Google, or that "doing the right thing" didn't factor into this decision. Far from it. Google's challenge to the Chinese government is opportunistic, yes. But it is neither an act of altruism nor a cynical ploy to scuttle a failing business unit while disguising it as a humanitarian gesture. Above all, this is a business decision - and a very good one. [ 01.26.10 ]"