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Google's Good/Bad Cop China PR Tactic May Yield Self-Injury

It's a bare-fisted bout that Google is waging over China, only the aim is to benefit the company, not bruise the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google (GOOG) is advertising its decision to supposedly stop censoring its Chinese search engine through its own search text ads:

English-language searches Tuesday on for various phrases related to Google and Chinaâ€"such as "Google Leaves China," or "Google vs. Baidu"â€"called up an ad that linked to the company's manifesto on the matter, the corporate blog it issued last week in which it disclosed it was hit by a major cyber attack and said it may pull out of China entirely. The ad, with a heading "Google and China," invited viewers to "read our public response to recent security issues on the Google blog."
I hadn't noticed (which suggests that maybe text ads placed against search get resoundingly ignored by at least some segments of the population), but pardon if I don't join the many rhapsodic recitations. This is simply more evidence that Google is out, as you might logically expect, for corporate and financial advantage.

There's nothing wrong with making a business decision to walk away from China. However, the choices and tactics that Google is using are anything but clean, in the sense of being aboveboard and open. The company's chief legal officer began the official waffling last Thursday evening in an interview on NPR.

In the past, it's been unusual for Google to promote its views in such a way. But this year has seen an uptick both in regulatory attention focused on the company and the PR steps its management is taking to preserve its brand and further its interests.

To keep alive the view that it's ready to "end censorship" and still to try to get the Chinese government into negotiations is an attempt to play both good and bad cops, the good focused on preserving the potential of the Chinese market and the bad intended to convince the public of its trustworthiness. However, all the messages are coming from the same entity, and all are visible to both targets. The likely outcome is that it becomes less credible overall.

Image via stock.xchng user nulus, site standard license.

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