Google CEO Eric Schmidt struck up a rallying cry for free speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, today when he said:
"We love what China is doing as a country and its growth. We just don't like the censorship. We hope to apply some negotiation or pressure to make things better for the Chinese people."
Such comments would have perhaps been unthinkable three weeks ago, before Schmidt and his legal counsel ripped China Jan. 12 after it detected a clever hack on its corporate servers there.
Hackers allegedly accessed Gmail accounts and Google swore to stop censoring its Google.cn search portal and threatened to cease operating in China outright.
"We have made a strong statement we wish to remain in China. We like the Chinese people. We like our Chinese employees. We like the business opportunities there and we would like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have. But we remain quite committed to being there."
It should be noted that while Schmidt also said on this call Google is still following Chinese laws and censoring Google.cn, he expects that to change soon.
However, he also said on this earnings call that Google's business there is unchanged. Maybe he meant Google's existing business remains unaffected, but its future business there already looks bleak.
On another note, am I crazy or do I detect a subtle, but persistent undertone of condescension in the comments Google CEO Eric Schmidt makes regarding China?
There's something oddly paternal in comments like "we love the Chinese people" and "we just don't like the censorship."
Schmidt could have easily said "I love my son, but I hate it when he throws oatmeal on the floor."
That's not the normal tenor of talk one reserves for powerful nations. Maybe it's just me.
Worse, admitting that Google wants to apply "pressure to make things better for the Chinese people" comes off more than a little arrogant. That made me wince; so Google wants to pressure foreign powers?
Google should stick to search, not dictating or influencing foreign policy, even if it's to better its business opportunities there. Let the politicians do the politicking.