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Google Vs China – lessons for Ethiopia

By Yilma Bekele

Google is at war with the Peoples Republic of China. Google is a worthy adversary. If I was a betting person I will put all my money on Google. There is no question Google will win. The Peoples Republic is playing the old game of bullying. Too bad for the Chinese those days are gone. It is a new age, a new game and winning comes from using your smarts not your brute force.

Google choose ‘Don’t be evil’ as the company motto. It looks like Google measured the company’s venture in China and the scale tipped towards evil. Google decided evil is not the way forward.

Google is an Internet search company located a few miles from where I live. It has been named as the best place to work in Fortune magazines survey. It is a forward-looking progressive company mindful of its social responsibility. There are plenty of smart Ethiopians working for Google. In fact my friend Tesh might join Google the next few days. We are all happy and proud.

Google entered the Chinese market in 2006. agreed to purge its search results of banned topics such as Tiananmen, Tibet and other issues deemed sensitive by the communist government. Most civil right activists were not happy. Google felt having some access was better than no access. What Google CEO Eric Schmidt said was very memorable ‘we actually did an evil scale and decided not to serve at all was worse evil’ he opined.

As is the case with most incompatible marriages the Google –China union is showing cracks. Google is not happy with the sophisticated cyber attacks that are originating from China. The hackers are trying to penetrate computer security systems and steal corporate data and software source codes. Google is forced to revise its earlier decision to play dead and accommodate a repressive system.

According to David Drummond, chief legal officer of Google ‘we have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.

What lesson can we learn from Google’s encounter with an evil system and its response to stop such abuse? I believe Google is following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Google is practicing the art of peaceful resistance to challenge a formidable looking but at the same time a weak opponent. A paper tiger; to borrow Mao’s phrase. Google can still serve its Chinese customers from outside. Software sophistication has come a long way. The average Chinese can use proxy servers and virtual networks to go around the ‘great Chinese firewall’. Google built its reputation by the quality of its superior search engine. Uncensored Google can beat any competition suffering under the yoke of state supervision. Thus Google felt evil cannot be accommodated. Google tried but found out compromise with dictatorship was a dead end street. Google choose not to participate in a rigged game.

We in Ethiopia are faced with the same situation. We have an opponent that is not willing to practice the art of give and take. Compromise is foreign to our TPLF bosses. Contempt to all others has become second nature to the tribal regime. Just as Google tried with China, the Ethiopian people have tried to accommodate the fears and worries of the minority based government. Time and time again the hand stretched palms up for peace and harmony have been chopped off. Peace is preferable to war, negotiation is superior to confrontation and compromise is more civilized than take it or leave attitude but all are a two way street. It takes the goodwill of both parties in a conflict to come to an understanding.

Google decided playing by the Communist party’s rule is more ruinous than not playing. We in Ethiopia should sit down and weigh the cost of further humiliation at the hands of a few delusional cadres as opposed to saying enough and charting a new path. The harm to our country and to ourselves is greater in the long run than the make believe peace we have conjured up in our head.

Google could have waited out the Chinese politburo. Google could have said ‘we will take this little compromise and hope for more.’ Google knew the longer its patience the more belligerent the demands get. Google said enough is enough. ጉግል በቃ አለ፣እርሶስ ምን ይላሉ?

There are some in Ethiopia that are trying to outlive evil. They talk about the high cost of confrontation. They preach about the virtue of patience. Then they try to raise alarm about the weakness of the opposition. They totally agree about the unfairness of the system but qualify their response by the impossibility of victory. It is true that no one goes to war to lose, but on the other hand when a war is declared by an enemy the only option is to do ones best to win. Rolling over dead is not a winning strategy.
The Chinese Government gave Google the license to operate. But it was a qualified license. Google tried its best to serve its customers with all the restrictions placed on it. It tried to make the best of a difficult situation. Facilitating the open exchange of information is Google’s business. The Chinese government was trying to muzzle that. Google found out you can’t serve two masters at the same time. It is either the Chinese people or the Chinese government.

It sounds like a familiar situation for us Ethiopians. The tribal regime allows formation of political party’s. It sets date and time for elections. Unfortunately there is a big but. You can register your party but you can’t campaign. You can stand for elections but your leaders will be jailed. You can sit and talk in a closed room but you cannot be quoted. It is ok to have election supervisors but they will be appointed by the regime. It is like entering a boxing ring with both hands tied behind your back and the referee is the mother of your opponent.

So Google is in the process of redefining its business contract with the Chinese government. It is willing to abandon working within the system and try its chances from outside China. It looks like Google made the change of course decision without looking at the other actors on the Chinese stage. Yahoo is still there. MSN is staying put. It really don’t matter. Google’s stand is based on its corporate principle of ‘Don’t do evil.’

We Ethiopians always fret about the opinion and stand of others. We shift responsibility and accountability unto others. We avoid answering to our conscience and try to find excuse for our deliberately vague outlook. The minority regime is beating the drums of elections. All the preparations for coronations are in place. The press has been muzzled, opposition leaders are put in jail, exiled, killed or co-opted, the law has been amended to TPLF’s specifications, the country is flooded with cadres bullying the population and the foreign Diplomats are stepping over each other preaching the wonderful art of compromise. The ducks are all lined up!

Be like Google and say no to unfair competition. Dare to say no to humiliation.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])

11 thoughts on “Google Vs China – lessons for Ethiopia

  1. The author said “Google’s office is located a few miles from where I live…” and a few paragraph letter he said, “we in Ethiopia….”
    Anyone who does not know about google or Ethiopia would think that googles office is in Ethiopia.
    A good article but as our old adage goes “Feyel wodih kizmzim wodya…”
    I don’t know the objective of the article

  2. I can see that daily a couple of dozen websites are out there claiming to be anti tribal junta in Addis Ababa or opposition to current divide and rule régime. How is it their opposition to this one ethnic government? How come they are not supporting the Ginbot 7 and EPPF fighters? Or are they waiting the billionaire woyanes to bribe them like the hailu shawel’s, Ethiopia first’s. Everybody knows Peaceful presidential election is not going to happen in Ethiopia and all of those opposition websites knows it clearly. If change is going to happen the woyanes are going to put somebody who can take orders behind door from them like puppet that is what they are looking for, they know it they couldn’t rule Ethiopia forever their biggest supporters the west wouldn’t allow them so. Their plan is they will control all the biggest business like construction, agriculture, banking and the defense force as whole under one ethnic group, like they say money can buy everything .they will buy whoever is they think is danger to them, if not they will put them to jail back and forth by frustrating the group or the person until he/they gives up. This is clearly their trick and they have been successful so far.
    So are the opposition websites still not joining Ginbot 7 and EPPF fighters? We will see. – Editor: Elias Kifle; supports EPPF, Ginbot 7
    2. – Editor: Unknown; Claims to be neutral, but leans toward Woyanne
    3. – Editor: Abraha Belay; supports the Siye Abraha wing of Woyanne
    4. – Editor: Amare Aregawi; a member of Woyanne
    5. – Editor: Kinfu Assefa, supports Ginbot 7
    6. – Editor: Girum Zegeye; undercover Woyanne
    7. – Editor: Ashebir Gezimu; supports UDJ
    8. – Editor: unknown; political leaning is unknown
    9. – Editor: Endelibu (pen name); supports Ginbot 7
    10. – Editor: unknown; supports Oromo Federal Democratic Movement
    11. Addis voice
    13-Ethio Zare and so on

  3. The Objective of the article is clear basically, — “let’s not be evil” STOP Filtering of websites critical to gov’t.

    let the people decide what to read!

    It is a good article! i like it and Google will take over! this is now a war between Google and China!

  4. Google sold it’s soul in 2006,accepted censorship and went to the future a.k.a.China to make money.Now that it is beaten badly by the local search engine ,Baidu,which is dominating 90% of the Chinese market, google is crying to cover up it’s embarrassing exit.The motive here is not justice or freedom of internet which google forgot about in 2006 but exit strategy by google.


  5. In all fairness, China has every right to run its country as it sees fit. I just wonder how many bottles of whiskey that the executives at Google down before coming up with this ridiculous scheme — lets us bite the hand that feeds us. Life for the popular Google in China may soon be coming to an end, and they can no longer blame the numbers. Maybe Google with all its fortune should buy an island and call it Googleland, then they can run things the way they would like — free and irresponsible.

  6. Yilma Bekele seems a bit confused in bearing such an over-simplified view of both China and Google. Let’s face it, they are both trying to ensure their respective interests are not adversly affected.
    Google is a business-oriented company, and it is not in China to ensure the Chinese have better access to information. For all I know, Google couldn’t care less if all the Chinese died today if it weren’t for the would be dramatic loss of customer base, which translates to the bottom line (money.)

    On the other hand, the Chinese government has a vital interest–keeping the West’s meddling at a minimal. It would be immensely naive to think that Google or even the West in general cares about the Chinese well being more than the Chinese government does. Every government’s duty is to have it’s people’s interest at heart. In this regard, the Chinese government is very smart in evading all the malicious attempts by the West to undermine its development strategy. Any Chinese will admit that the country has made tremendous progress in the past few decades in all aspects including education, standard of living, AND human rights. Within a very short time, China transformed itself from a largely irrelevant third world nation in to a major force in global politics and economy–essentially ensuring a first world status in the near future. Who benefited? The Chinese people. Who did not? All those that would like to see it disintegrate so it doesn’t become a rival power. The only time the West raises the ‘human rights’ issue is when it serves its sinister plots for the country or region. Remember, the West is friends with Egypt, Saudi, Jordan, Israel, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Georgia, and Rwanda to name a few that are governed by brutal dictatorship. Yes, that also includes Israel, considering how it treats its 2million Israeli-Arabs (you can read about it).

    The Chinese government and Woyane regime in Ethiopia are not comparable by any standard! In Ethiopia, you’ve got a minority party brutally ruling the majority, while having in it’s origional manifesto, a long term plan of establishing an independent Tigray after grabbing enough land and prospering its tribal region in order to make a potential viable future separate country. In other words, the tribal junta does not have Ethiopians’ interest at heart. So, in Ethiopia’s case, the brutality of the Woyane dictatorship can be viewed at face value–the use and abuse of the majority of its citizens.

    In conclusion, the Chinese model of development strategy is effective as long as it is carried out by a government by its people for its people. In fact, Africa and its people would be better served by such a model. To verify the validity of that, look no farther than Eritrea; self-reliance, complete political independence, hard work, and patriotism under a centralized government has enabled the nation (despite the immense adversity by Ethiopia’s Woyane and the West) significantly raise its people’s standard of living including in education, infrastructure, health, and food security in less than 20 yrs after independence.

    Africa needs social revolution that ensures political, social, and economic independence under dedicated leadership BEFORE the so called Western democracy.

  7. Dear Yilma,
    you know better; as you are well aware of google’s mission is not only profit motivated but also destroy China’s infrastructure and socioeconomic development.
    Chines and their government are very much aware the western tactics and influence, they have resisted all the odds sofar.Under the visionary leader Mao and their communist paty they liberated their people from feudal system.
    They made a quatum leap in buiding basic infrastructure and socioeconomic development.
    What does google mean for them? Nothing.
    Google as concerned human right advocate
    for the rest world? hallo take a break.

  8. We can not change what happened to Ethiopia the last 20 years,but we can change the future. Please read # 3 again and again I agree with this person, the billionair Woyane knows how to bribe and they were successful.They know if all the oppostions join Ginot 7 they are history, so they are working day and night for this not to happen. So, WAKE UP GUYS!

  9. Number 7 ,comparing Chinese leadership which managed to attract all the major companies on earth to invest in China and managed to overtake the USA as number one recipient of Direct Foreign Investment with the Eritrean leadership is laughable.

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