Making a Lemonade out of Lemons: A Lesson from Murdoch to Google

19 Jan

By Ren Fang | Tuesday, January 19, 2009

I have to comment on this ‘Google quitting China’ fiasco that has been percolating the news reports over the last week. Not because if it happens (emphasis on if), it would bring ‘ a loss for the Chinese people’ (Wired Magazine, 1/15/10), but because of the global attention given to the announcement overall.

At the very least, it has gone far past my expectations as a Chinese native – and when asking my 15-year old nephew in China about this, he’s never even used the site to begin with.

Back in 2008, News Corporation’s quiet exit (closing of China’s headquarters for Star TV) didn’t make much ripples amongst the other news happening all around the world. While News Corp’s did not fully exit from China, it was a good indication that News Corp was stopping their efforts to build out a national TV station in China after trying over 20 years when Rupert Murdoch first visited China (and giving free distribution rights of 50 movies to CCTV as a ‘gift’).

Now, back to 2009 – the sharp contrast of Google’s potential exit is what surprises me most. While there is the argument to be made that there is a vast difference between News Corp and Google (one being a media company, the other a technology company), to the eyes of the Chinese government, they are one in the same. In the mind of the Chinese government, these two companies are positioned exactly the same way – a publisher / media agent.

Search Engine Illusion

Baidu, Google’s direct competitor in China with over 70% market share, obtained a News Publisher License in 2007, the same year when Google was busy defending itself from piracy issues with Sogou’s Pinyin. It may seem odd that Baidu attained a news publishing license considering Baidu’s core business is in search engine, it was Baidu’s deep understanding of how to play ‘nice’ with the Chinese government’s thoughts that a search engine portal is nothing more than a collaboration of news and information. To date, Google has still to reach that mutual understanding with the government.

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