Marketshare in China ~ at what price?
Business Insider recently reported that China is trying to buy into Facebook, as the leading online social network explores plans to partner in China. If the deal goes through, China’s position is not expected to be large, but is cause for some level of concern. The Communist Party, despite three decades of economic reform, insists on its monopoly of political power. And to maintain that monopoly, the government operates as a constant watch dog of its citizens and the various forms of new internet media. A bit of irony, since the media is the government watchdog in most free democratic countries. At present, the Chinese government is in the midst of the most comprehensive crackdown on society since 1989. Chinese leaders clearly view social media as a threat to their rule, especially after watching protests around the world generated online that have rocked governments. It is common knowledge, many American companies stumble in China because the government tends to favor locals when it comes to regulations. As a result, foreign companies agree to sell the Chinese government a stake in their company, resulting in Beijing having an operational voice. Although the level of involvement may vary, censorship of some form is no doubt at the root of their demands and a rather large compromise for companies such as Facebook. Some companies like Google have taken a strong ethical stance on the subject of censorship in China, resulting in a high-profile fallout with Beijing over the matter. Then, there are companies like Microsoft, which recently partnered with China’s Baidu in order to expand its web search market share in China. Microsoft’s decision to compromise internet freedom for the sake of future profits is disappointing, and Facebook appears to be treading down dangerous waters as well – a slippery slope of business over ethics that I wanted to bring attention to.