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How Google and China are alike

Ever since Google announced it suffered a cyber-attack from China, Google's legendary PR machine has gone into overdrive, opportunistically framing the conflict as a good versus evil story, and positioning Google as the Internet's benign superpower defending free expresssion, and as a new kind of business that puts morality before money.   

  • Google understands it is easy to politically demonize China, because China's pervasive censorship and trampling of fundamental freedoms and human rights offend all freedom-loving people.

However, those willing to look behind the curtain of Google's self-serving political rhetoric here, will discover that many of the attributes that offend so many people about China, Google shares to an unfortunate extent.

  • Let's review four significant strategic similarities between Google and China -- brought to you in Google's own words.

First, Google's leadership, like China, has affirmatively chosen to not be democratically accountable.

  • In taking Google public, Google's founders rejected the normal notion of shareholder democracy, one share one vote, and assigned their own class of shares ten times the voting rights of public Google shares.
  • Google's IPO letter stated: "We have set up a corporate structure that will make it harder for outside parties to take over or influence Google." "New investors... will have little ability to influence strategic decisions through their voting rights."

Second, Google, like China, is highly secretive and non-transparent about how it exercises its monopoly power.

  • "For something that is used so often by so many people, surprisingly little is known about ranking at Google. This is entirely our fault, and it is by design. We are, to be honest, quite secretive about what we do." Udi Manber, Google VP Engineering, Google Blog 5-20-08.
  • "Our model is just better. Based on that, we should have 100% share." Google CEO Eric Schmidt in Forbes 12-9-09.
  • "We won't (and shouldn't) try to stop the faceless scribes of drivel, but we can move them to the back row of the arena." Google Sr. VP Jonathan Rosenberg, Google Blog 2-16-09.

Third, Google, like China, has little regard for individuals' privacy in that it tracks, records and analyzes most everything people do on the web.   

  • "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Google CEO Eric Schmidt, on CNBC 12-8-09.  
  • We are very early in the total information we have within Google." ... “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’” ...“We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.” Google CEO Eric Schmidt FT 5-22-07.

Finally, Google, like China, has little regard for the property rights of others and sees infringement of intellectual property as a pathway to a powerful competitive advantage over those who abide by the rule of law. 

  • Google founder Sergey Brin in arguing against Google adopting a copyright infringement model before it bought YouTube: "... is changing policy to increase traffic knowing beforehand that we'll profit from illegal downloads how we want to conduct business? Is this Googlely?" Viacom's Statement of Undisputed Facts to the Court in Viacom vs Google 3-18-10 SUF #162, p. 38.
  •  Google Video product manager Ethan Anderson arguing against Google buying YouTube and adopting a pro-infringement policy: "It crosses the threshold of Don't be Evil to facilitate distribution of other people's intellectual property and possibly even allowing monetization of it by somebody who doesn't own the copyright; ... It's a cop out to resort to dist-rob-ution..."  Viacom's Statement of Undisputed Facts to the Court in Viacom vs Google 3-18-10 SUF #164, p. 39.  

In sum, Google's own words prove that Google is indeed more like China than it would care to admit.  


For more information see: Precursor's sister watchdog site dedicated to making Google more transparent and accountable.