Why Google's threat to pull out of China is so jarring

With Google's threat this week to pull out of China, the company is taking sides along national boundaries – something that seems very out of place for a modern multinational corporation.

With Google's threat this week to pull out of China, the company is taking sides along national boundaries - something that seems very out of place for a modern multinational corporation. There are multiple ways of looking at this. From a business perspective: Like most companies, Google follows the money, and from a business perspective China represents a huge opportunity comprised of more Internet users than the United States. The potential yuan-fest has some observers saying that Google must be bluffing. You just don't walk away from that kind of money. Others note that this would be a huge coup for Baidu, Google's rival in China. Other companies, such as Cisco, will continue to explore business opportunities in China, and in fact Brad Reese highlights the stark contrast between Cisco's and Google's approaches in his blog. From a national-security perspective: Whether Google is bluffing or not, it is trying to highlight cyberattacks that supposedly are originating from China. And it's being viewed in a China-vs.-U.S. light. The U.S. State Department even felt the need to issue a statement about the seriousness of Google's stance - and rather quickly, I might add. So quickly that it raises the question of whether Google had talked with the Obama Administration before issuing its threat. Whether it did or not, Google finds itself more firmly on the side of the United States. Perhaps it felt it had to choose sides. From a PR perspective: A cynic would say that this is all a PR stunt - that it doesn't matter whether Google does or doesn't actually pull out of China, that the net effect is that Google will be viewed in a better light by people around the world. Google had been criticized for censoring search results at the request of the Chinese government, and by refusing to do so now, that criticism goes away. If Google follows through and uncensors its results, China is likely to simply block Google altogether, analysts say. What do you think? Did Google make the right call, and for the right reasons? - Jeff Caruso

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