A good Slate article about Google, Yahoo, et al.’s problem with China. Namely: that any single company must obey China’s human-rights-violating policies in order to be competetive. And of course, having American companies compete in China also advances the cause of human rights, so it’s not just a money-driven decision. Given the choice of aiding the Chinese government’s anti-democratic policies or doing no business at all in China, it’s totally reasonable that an individual company would find no room to bargain and would do the obvious thing.
However, if the situation were changed so that China was not dealing with one company at a time, but rather all American companies, the dynamic would be a lot different. The US could make a law that forbids our companies from helping foreign governments to censor and repress. Then it’s not about whether Google wants to do business in China – it’s about whether China wants to do business with the US. And of course, there’s also the bonus that it takes the responsibility off of Google’s shoulders, so it would make less sense for China to punish Google for following American laws.
This is exactly the kind of situation where it makes sense for our government to restrict the free market: because of course, China is already restricting the market. And really, any time we’re dealing with countries that have different standards for human rights, the market isn’t free in the first place.