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Diane Francis

Diane Francis

Posted: January 25, 2010 02:06 PM

Grow up Google

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The war of words between China and Google escalated this week into a full-blown diplomatic flap.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked China to investigate cyber-sabotage incidents against Google that led the search giant recently to threaten to leave unless Chinese censorship requirements were scrapped.

She lectured: "Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century." Then she added China to a list of countries which have become a "spike in threats to the free flow of information" recently such as Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

What she failed to add to that list were the "spikes" such as Google itself, Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing which have obeyed Beijing's censorship restrictions, all to gain market share in China. Even worse, in 2007 Yahoo was pilloried after revelations that it turned over information about dissidents to Beijing.

It's somewhat amusing, therefore, that Google and its two American competitors have collaborated with the Great Internet Fire Wall all the way up to about 40% market share. And Google has about 30%, or most of it, which undoubtedly made it the biggest target by persons unknown who may want it out of China.

Despite its corporate outrage, and White House support, Google has more temperately said it seeks a face-saving compromise with China which may have something to do with the fact that its exit means it will leave behind a place in China's monstrously vast (also censored) cell phone market.

C'mon
American governmental and corporate righteous indignation about unfair or unjust trade practices is amusing to Canadians given the fact that the United States has embedded buy-America policies in contravention of the Free Trade Agreement as well as has alowed systemic protectionism against Canadian lumber, livestock, steel and other products made by other trading partners.

Despite the double standard, Washington's spin doctors now are in full flight bashing China as though Google was a foot soldier in some great moral struggle between America and the Middle Kingdom.

My guess is that this is probably just another case of old-fashioned, ruthless capitalism on the part of Google's rivals, present and future, which are fighting for the biggest piece of the biggest piece of the biggest web market on earth. And they don't have the motto "do no evil" like Google does. This is the biggest Internet gamble around: There are more net users in China, 384 million, than there are human beings in the U.S. and Canada combined.

China's search company champion is Baidu with 60% market share now. What Google and Americans know better than anyone is that home teams usually win on home ice.