The uncensoring of Google.cn -- which effectively means the decommissioning of it by those behind the Great Firewall -- was retaliation for being hacked, not a principled stand against China for sitting on the rights of its citizens like a fat drunk on a bar stool. This is ultimately about money, not morals.
Even so, Google’s decision to say “up yours” to the Chinese government affects all the big players in high tech, and not just the 30-odd companies that were attacked. As I write this, we know the names of only three besides Google: Adobe, Juniper, and an L.A. law firm representing Cybersitter in a suit against the Chinese government. The Washington Post adds Yahoo, Symantec, Dow Chemical, and Northrup Grumman to the list, though none of those companies are talking.
But you know if they targeted Google, they had to have also gone after Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and other big players. So the question becomes, what do those guys do? Do they pull a Google and give Beijing the finger? Or do they keep their lips zipped and hope the problem goes away, unwilling to let go of 1.3 billion potential customers?
Microsoft has already weighed in: It's staying in China, cyber spies or no (more evidence for you conspiracy fans out there). Not that anyone actually pays for Microsoft products over there -- or at least pays Microsoft for them. No matter; they’ve elected to fight software piracy “from the inside.” They probably calculated that boycotting Beijing would have little to no impact on their image; people who hate Microsoft will continue to hate Microsoft, while the MSFT fanboys will endorse any move they make.
(At least one other small Web company is following Google’s lead, though I’m not sure how much impact it will have.)
Too bad. Because if the tech industry really wants China to change the way it does business, a unified front might have been more effective. If the big U.S. tech companies all elected to stop aiding and abetting the Chinese in their attempts to rewrite history as it happens -- and tacitly condone attempts to steal our nation's intellectual property, one of the few areas where we still lead the world -- it would be that much harder for them to do it.
Should other tech firms boycott Beijing? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org. But don’t blame me if the Chinese start spying on you.