Following Google’s recent declaration that the search engine might pull out of China if it is not allowed to show uncensored search results, the spotlight has also fallen on rival, Microsoft, who has also started operations in China.
Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, has made it clear during an interview with CNBC & Bloomberg that Microsoft plans to continue working in China, and they will toe the line as is expected of them.
Following a meeting with President Obama at the White House, he told Bloomberg, “There are cyber attacks on all companies, of any size, from all parts of the world, not just China, at all times, so it’s hard for me to understand how that got tied into the whole notion of doing business in China.” He further said, “China’s the second largest market in the world … [Pulling out of China] is not something we’re thinking about. That’s not part of the way for us to grow.”
Google’s announcement stated that the company had been the direct victim of highly sophisticated and targeted cyber attacks that had originated in China. The attack not only resulted in the loss of corporate infrastructure and intellectual property, but also targeted various human rights activists.
Microsoft, on the other hand, said that they had not been affected by any such attacks and their email system has not been breached. The ethics of bowing to the Chinese government’s cesnorship requirements don’t seem to bother Microsoft.
Microsoft’s market share in China, which is currently estimated at just 0.25%, may grow if Google quits the Chinese search market.
U.S. Government officials have clearly stated that they support Google’s decision to pull out of China. White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs said, “Our concern is with actions that threaten the universal rights of a free Internet.” While the White House has not yet taken any action against China, Philip Crowley of the State Department said that they will issue a formal message to Beijing and ask for an explanation.
If Google is to be believed, freedom of expression on the Internet is at stake here, as is the future of several companies who wish to do business in China, which is the world’s largest Internet market. Though, that is little more than grand-standing on Google’s part.
Human rights organisations in China have asked other companies to follow Google’s lead and withdraw from China if censorship continues.
So far, however, there is no indication that other companies will withdraw, and China seems adamant on maintaining their policies, since they know that the Western world will not be able to withdraw from their country very easily.