An ex-Googler pokes China in the eye

Slate has a fascinating interview with Andrew McLaughlin at Tumblr, the blogging platform that has become popular/trendy for its social network layer.  The most interesting part of the interview concerns McLaughlin’s earlier experience at Google, where he was charged with assessing whether Google should enter China with all the sordid censorship practices that entails.  He recommended not to but was overruled; then he led the team responsible for rolling out Google’s business in China but left just before Google made its dramatic and highly public exit from China, citing those sordid censorship practices as the reason.

All corporate inside-baseball you would think, but McLaughlin now thinks he was both wrong and right.  Wrong, because the executives who pushed to enter China argued that Google’s presence there would help open the flow of information in China and this, McLaughlin believes, proved true.  But he was right in believing that China simply will not let foreign technology companies dominate crucial sectors of their domestic network, so there is no point in paying the price in moral compromise to operate there.  McLaughlin’s list of some of mechanisms by which China crippled their business is revealing, as is the names of the big players — Google, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo — that all found themselves unable to compete against local rivals.

Check out the video.  The clip above is part two; you can watch part one here.


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