Feb 22, 2006 10:48 pm


"I did not want to live in a country where I am always afraid of a knock on the door," my father said when asked why he chose to leave Communist Romania. It was far from an idle question. He was very comfortable financially and had to leave penniless with a wife and two small children. Anyone who ever lived in a totalitarian, authoritarian or semi-democratic country understands that fear very well. Indeed, I have long concluded that the world is divided between those who understand what it's like to live with such fear and those who do not. Apparently, China is in the process of teaching Google executives the inherent "insecurity" which accompanies China deals.

A state-run newspaper reported Tuesday that Google Inc. is under investigation for operating without a proper license in China and quoted an unnamed government official as saying the Internet giant needs to cooperate further with the authorities in blocking"harmful information" from its search results.

Google thought it was safe. It was in close contact with the Chinese government and operated according to accepted procedure as is admitted by the official Chinese People's Daily.

Google has been using the ICP license of a Chinese company,, under a business partnership. On the screen, the licence number is displayed at the bottom of the page.

The practice has been followed by many international Internet companies in China. Currently, Yahoo Inc. and EBay Inc. both have similar license arrangements with Google Inc.

President of Google's China company Li Kaifu told the press that using another company's ICP license is a common practice taken by many international companies at early transition phases after entering China.

What Google failed to realize is that in reality it was operating in a legal never never land and that the Chinese are more than happy to keep it there as is evident from their official news agency:

The Chinese Ministry of Information Industry, the regulator of the IT industry, was very cautious on the issue. The ministry spokesman Wang Lijian said it had finished investigating the licensing case, and its findings will soon be publicized. He said the ministry is taking a circumspect attitude in dealing with the case.

According to Wang, the Beijing Communications Administration was still investigating the problem and its results will soon be published.

Google China responded most respectfully:

Li said Google has had close contact with the Chinese government since it entered China. As a law-abiding company, Google is willing to receive guidance from the Chinese government, he said.

It should be noted that Google is not alone in this legal limbo. Most foreign companies enter the Chinese markets thought similar"joint ventures." eBay and Yahoo are other famous examples. The Google scenario should teach them all a most valuable lesson. Doing business with an"evil empire" means not only helping it keep its population in a perpetual fear of the ominous knock on the door but also living in a perpetual fear of that knock.

comments powered by Disqus