In the wake of Google’s decision to switch its search engine servers to Hong Kong, Sergey Brin, one of the company’s founders gave an illuminating interview to the New York Times’ Bits blog.
In the interview, Brin holds out the tantalising suggestion that taking advantage of China’s “One Country, Two Systems” approach to managing Hong Kong, which keeps the island censorship free, may have found favour with the Chinese government. “There was a sense that Hong Kong was the right step,” he says.
It is certainly an elegant solution, allowing everyone to save face. Google gets to remain in China and to stop censorship while the Chinese government does not look like it has forced the company out. I suspect in the long run it may prove difficult for Google to operate out of Hong Kong, and that the government may eventually put the screws on, but for the time being the situation has been diffused.
One intriguing thing, however, is that not even Mr Brin could get a straight answer out of the Chinese government. “There’s a lot of lack of clarity,” he admits. If the founder of Google can’t get a decent response out of Beijing in this sort of high-stakes negotiation, what chances for the rest of us?
China deliberately obfuscates when it comes to this sort of situation, as outlined in a post today on the Chinese Negotiation blog. As the blog points out, pretending to be irrational and capricious has served China’s interests well.