The issue now is Google's decision to censor search results on its Chinese site. In an interview with Reuters (vectored via CNet news.com), Sergey Brin acknowledges that the decision will be criticized, but "eventually I came to the conclusion that more information is better, even if it is not as full as we would like to see."
Anders Bylund of Ars Technica.com compares the decision to Google's earlier rejection of the US Department of Justice's subpoena for search records, calling out the "hypocrisy" of standing up to one government but caving to another. The difference here, according to critics, is that China is a great untapped market, and playing nice with the Chinese government will yield a higher profit for the company than would caving to the DoJ.
We're taking Google's side on this one. Chinese users are already restricted by their government's firewall. Opening a dedicated site in China, even one that acquiesces to the government's demands, guarantees access to some information and keeps users from having to do all their searches on the down-low. Refusing to open the site because "Information Wants To Be Free!" does nothing for the Chinese.
People like to paint a picture of the company as Champions of Truth and Defenders of the Common Man, when the reality is a lot more practical: it's a business, one that exists to make money and give people access to information. It turns out that the two aren't always mutually exclusive, and the company ends up doing good more often than not.
Google's not the superhero who's going to fly into China and stick it to the Red Menace. It's just a company that has made billions and billions of dollars by doing things well and looking out for its customers. And that's even more impressive.Photo of the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats from their promotional site at Art Fegan Entertainment, taken by photographer Loli Kantor