Google China Given Longer Leash

    April 27, 2007

It’s sometimes best for authority figures to rule from afar – whether it’s a matter of interfering with an efficient routine or just making everyone nervous, direct contact isn’t always a positive thing.  Google China may be heaving a sigh of relief, then, as the main corporation takes a few steps back.

CEO Eric Schmidt explained his plans while speaking to Terence Poon.  “Google China is run very autonomously,” he began.  “We want to increase that . . . China is growing very quickly . . . so it’s important that we invest in China.”

Schmidt also indicated that Lee Kai-Fu, the current president of Google China, will not have to share that position with anyone else.  “We have one president and we’re going to continue with that structure,” he said (in reference to the departure of former co-president Johnny Chou).

Yet those two statements, taken together, may put a lot of pressure on Google China and its leaders; Google is, in comparison to its unassailable supremacy in America, getting clobbered in that market.  “Baidu continues to dominate the Chinese web search market with a market share of 55 percent,” reported TechWhack.  “Google is second with a 22 percent market share.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this experiment affects those numbers, but – and feel free to call me a cynic for this – there may be one more issue at stake: plausible deniability.  Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and a number of other corporations have been blasted for cooperating with the Chinese government; by leaving Google China to its own devices, Schmidt may be hoping to dodge some of that negative publicity.