Google’s bold move in China seems like a carefully negotiated compromise more than the grand statement pulling completely out of China would have been.
Apparently the decision to partly pull out — moving Google’s search service to China’s least restrictive territory, Hong Kong, while keeping some business operations in the mainland — resulted from some haggling between the company and the country.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin shared some of the detail in a brief interview with Steve Lohr of the New York Times:
“The shift of its Chinese service to Hong Kong, Mr. Brin said, was not given a clear-cut stamp of approval by Beijing. But he said there was a ‘back and forth’ with the Chinese government on what to do. ‘There was a sense that Hong Kong was the right step,’ Mr. Brin said.”
It’s a milestone that calls more attention to Chinese censorship and Google’s convictions.
But it looks like both sides get their way — Google follows through on its pledge to provide uncensored search results while staying open for business in China, and China’s information repression continues on the mainland.
It’s like the promise of universal coverage vs. what we’re getting from health care reform.
UPDATE: A Google spokeswoman disputed my characterization of Sergey’s comments, saying it’s unfair to describe them as evidence of a compromise. She said via email that “conversation isn’t compromise.”