Google and the Government of China: Cultural Negotiations

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Executive Summary

This report focuses on an analysis of a case study involving cross-cultural negotiations between Google representatives and the government of China. Google is aiming to introduce its services to the Chinese Internet market and obtain a “.cn” license to ensure that users have access to useful and credible information with a high search speed. The government of China, however, doubts whether it is reasonable to provide Google with the opportunity to establish servers behind the Great Firewall and avoid the country’s censorship policies.

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Evaluating the issues and assumptions of the case, identifying the main problem, and clarifying causes can help in developing a management action plan for Google and offering an integrative agreement to allow both parties to create value. The power of the government, cultural variety, censorship policies, and globalization are all contributors to the distance between the negotiating parties. The ethical dilemma of the company’s mission and obligations in China has revealed the necessity of a new approach and its representation in a meeting with the government.

The report contains recommendations for Google to pay special attention to current Chinese laws and regulations and revise the Code of Conduct as well as follow a bilingual format. The company should also demonstrate respect for Chinese culture and traditions by observing behavioral and ethical norms. To achieve positive negotiation results, Google must be prepared to show not only a high level of knowledge about China but also an ability to accept and work under Chinese rules.


Globalization, industrialization, human rights, and personal freedoms, in addition to financial profits and social benefits, are all factors that can serve to explain Google’s intentions to penetrate China. In the relevant cross-cultural negotiations, the delegates representing Google and the government of China are the two major stakeholders. Google’s goal is to expand its business and discuss the peculiarities of the Great Firewall as they relate to its services.

In their turn, the aim of the representatives of the Chinese government is to achieve technological symbiosis (parity) with the United States and to consider the potential for political control through Internet censorship. In preparation for this cooperative effort, the Google team spent about two weeks improving their knowledge of Chinese culture and reviewing recent policy announcements in the country.1

China questioned the value of Google services for its population in light of already existing Baidu services. This report focuses on the development of a plan for negotiations between Google and the Chinese government, recognizing the main issues and assumptions for both parties, analyzing the most effective theories and approaches, and evaluating possible ethical dilemmas inherent to the situation.

Issues and Assumptions

In the case under analysis, the authors raise a variety of issues and assumptions that depict the essence of negotiations, including cultural, political, social, economic, and technological aspects. Google and China have something to offer each other from their different perspectives. At the same time, the potential for loss or neglect is always present. The table below lists the issues for negotiations along with the positions both parties may hold regarding each issue and the interests that underlie each chosen position.

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Issue Google Chinese Government
Globalization 1 Contribute to social relations and interactions regularly 2 Remain an independent figure in the global market
Globalization is an urgent factor in the development of Google, and China is a country that is opening its doors to this process. However, it is wrong to expect that all Chinese users will gladly neglect their ambitions and follow the common idea of unity as offered by Google.2Equal relationships and global opportunities are core ideals for Google. Over the last several decades, China has proved the country’s chosen position and rejected the necessity to accept globalization. A laisser-faire approach to relationships between the West and the authoritarian regime has been defined as naïve and unnecessary.3In other words, the process of globalization should not prevent the Chinese government from promoting and controlling state order.
Internet Censorship 1 Avoid censorship restrictions in services 2 Make companies as Google comply with local laws and regulations
Google’s mission statement reflects the value “don’t be evil,” and it is necessary to comply with this idea. Users expect to have global access to different services online. Censorship is not a restriction preventing service development. It is important to keep control over the Internet and avoid provoking social concerns and chaos. The power of the government is strong and supports the country’s sovereignty. Other international companies have not set an example of creating standards for China.
Power of the Government 3 Consider the regulations imposed by the government in meeting its business goals 1 Serve as the head of media control policies and final decision-makers in foreign relationships
Regardless of its international standards, Google has never neglected the norms set by local governments. Each country has rules and traditions, and it is necessary to respect them. The power of the government is crucial but should not restrict the freedom of speech and media. Certain regulations have been imposed on foreign companies and information in the business sector. In China, order, and obedience guide social, economic, and political relationships. The Great Firewall in the China IT sector is an achievement that best underscores the government’s role in society.
Ethics 1 Respect users’ privacy, freedoms, and rights 1 Control users’ privacy and rights to promote state order
The Google Code of Conduct properly describes the position of the company. Googlers strive to achieve the highest standards in serving users, being useful and honest, and taking actions, which includes obeying the law.4The popularity of services worldwide proves the correctness of the chosen position. It is difficult to develop one common attitude toward ethical considerations in China. Although Chinese users may access censorship-free Google sites, the Chinese government monitors all searches and blocks those unacceptable to censors.5The government promotes no privacy rights for Chinese Internet users.
Brain Drain 4 Offer people an opportunity to make choices 2 Reduce the loss of talented students and create additional new employment opportunities for Chinese citizens
Google has no particular position regarding the concept of brain drain. However, the idea of offering new jobs and options is part of the Code of Conduct. A “Don’t be evil” factor promotes equal opportunities and helps all users. The exchange of knowledge and experience with the US company Google is a chance for China to retain local talent. Access to Google’s research technologies encourages Chinese engineers to develop their own skills. Technological parity and the best technologies are of interest to the Chinese government.
Cultural Diversity 1 Respect people’s differences and meet their needs 3 Support nationalism as the main priority for the country
Google’s commitment is to respect diversity and emphasize inclusiveness worldwide. An understanding of the Chinese nation promises a serious contribution to the company’s development. Negotiations should considerably enlarge the client database and open new aspects of communication and cultural diversity. Restriction of Westernization is a core element in China. The government is the head of the existing hierarchy in the Chinese culture, and Google must not alter this position. Unity of ideas and respect for traditions create the basis for Chinese life.
BATNA Offer new Google services to the Chinese users licensed services ( with respect to its local network (Baidu) and the government Control Google’s penetration to the Chinese Internet market, avert license and highlight the value of local search engines
Reservation Price Provide Chinese users with access to with low speed and restricted results, damaging Google’s reputation Establish Internet censorship policies to control activities taking place through services


In this report, the case of cross-cultural negotiations between the representatives of Google and the Chinese government will be discussed. Basically, the situation is as follows: Google wants to obtain a “.cn” license to offer high-quality, high-speed services to the Chinese population, and the government is questioning the necessity of this move. The main concerns of the case include the cultural diversity of the parties, a variety of ethical issues including censorship and privacy rights, and governmental power.

Negotiations should begin with an evaluation of the Great Firewall of China and its potential impact on Google’s services. It is necessary to understand the type of content that can be defined as harmful or undesirable for the Chinese population as well as how to differentiate censored information without restricting human rights and freedoms. At the same time, Google faces the need to solve an ethical dilemma. If the company accepts an Internet censorship restriction according to Chinese law, will Google be honoring its well-known slogan “don’t be evil” and fulfilling its function to provide universally accessible information?

Cultural Diversity

A primary factor that may influence the development of the negotiations between the representatives of Google and the government of China involves existing cultural diversity. Google is an American organization where such issues as individualism, freedom of the press and media, and sustainable innovation play a crucial role. In China, by contrast, collectivism and the power of ancestors and traditions cannot be ignored.

According to Lewicki, Barry, and Saunders, it is necessary to discuss cross-cultural negotiations within the frames of environmental and immediate contexts.6 Culture is an environmental factor that must be considered in interpreting behaviors, communication, and the purposes that negotiating parties are seeking to achieve. In this case, Google’s general perspective, cultural variety, and limitless opportunities clash with Chinese governmental restrictions and social obligations.

Google representatives should demonstrate their respect for Chinese hierarchical relationships and elders, use their language in order not to offend any individual, and never expect direct answers to their questions. In addition, some similar cultural aspects between the nations can be noted. Therefore, it is reasonable to emphasize the issues that unite Google and China, including a high level of comfort, financial prosperity, job satisfaction, and security.

Ethics Considerations

The United States and China remain the two largest world-renowned economies, and it is necessary for them to support various types of professional relationships. The peculiar feature of this case is that these two countries must succeed in the competition as well as cooperation.7 On the one hand, in these negotiations, the parties must recognize the benefits and challenges inherent in cooperation. The Chinese government may fail to control its population members’ search activities online, reducing the power of the country’s existing censorship policies. On the other hand, Google cannot provide sufficient guarantees about the potential outcomes of the services the company offers for Chinese users.

In general, Google is facing a number of ethical dilemmas in its intention to obtain a “.cn” license. For example, if Google should agree to meet all the censorship regulations of the country, the company’s code of ethics involving the necessity to offer honest and useful information may be questioned in light of the fact that Chinese law can prevent sharing all types of data to its users. However, if censorship issues are not taken into consideration, the obligation to obey the law and comply with all the regulations may not be followed.

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Power of the Government

Almost every aspect of the chosen business case may prove a serious ground for a new ethical dilemma, and the power of the government is no exception. Google is introducing the conditions under which its services can be offered to Chinese users, including the possibility of evading the Great Firewall that censors Google search results and establishing its servers behind the wall. Otherwise, redirecting to other non-censored search engines will be conceivable.

The government may also find it effective to use its powers to damage Google’s reputation or limit its accessibility to the local population. China’s official position is clear and strong—the country must remain a powerful and independent global actor, and the government should have the same priorities within the country.8 Therefore, the aim of this negotiation is to pay special attention to the aspect of power and ensure that neither party loses its position or reputation but benefits from a new agreement and the new Google services. The Chinese government has already developed strong regulations for the operations of foreign companies. However, it does not want to lose the opportunity to establish a new business relationship with an American organization.

Hofstede Model for Cross-Cultural Negotiations and a BATNA

Understanding of the problems involved in the negotiations between China and Google can be developed in a variety of ways, and the use of the Hofstede model of cultural dimensions appears to present a rational option.

First, this approach helps to identify a framework for cross-cultural communication and compare the results between the countries. Second, the model offers a good opportunity to focus on several aspects of the differing cultures, including individualism vs. collectivism, power distance, the quality of life vs. career success, and uncertainty avoidance.9 Finally, the negotiating countries will be able to understand what to expect from each other and how to achieve the desired results with less effort. For example, Chinese collectivism should be compared to American individualism, or career success among Americans should be identified in terms of the high quality of Chinese life.

Taking into consideration the similarities and differences in Chinese and Google’s expectations, it is necessary to develop the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, also known as BATNA. This option includes a possible solution for the company or the country should negotiations fail and it is not possible for the two parties to reach the required agreement or deal. In Google’s case, the company may continue to try to break the Firewall of China and attract users to its services. Meanwhile, the Chinese government may emphasize its powers and ability to maintain control over all international attempts at penetration within the country.


The main problem, in this case, is the necessity to identify the impact of Chinese censorship policies on Google’s values and its intention to avoid evil but provide users with unbiased and honest information. This dilemma is rooted in the Google Code of Conduct that cannot be broken or changed merely because of the necessity to enter the Chinese Internet market. The company’s profits, new perspectives, and potential damage or losses must be weighed in the creation of a management action plan.

Management Action

In this case, Google is a party that is taking the first step to establish a new agreement and offer its services to the entire country of China. Therefore, the company is responsible to evaluate the situation and consider an integrative agreement that creates value for both Google and the Chinese government. Using the example of negotiations between the United States and Korea or China and Germany, parties involved in intercultural negotiation should demonstrate normative behaviors that are usually more appropriate for other cultures and less appropriate to their own cultures.10 In other words, the United States must be ready to make some concessions to meet China’s conditions.

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First, it is crucial to identify the benefits that Google may achieve if this agreement is signed. Despite the fact that Google is one of the most popular search engines worldwide, countries such as China and Japan are continuing to reject its penetration of their Internet systems. This agreement is a unique opportunity for Google to reach a goal that other online giants like Wikipedia have thus far failed to achieve.

About 1.39 billion11 people live in China, and although the country interprets this number as a significant decline in its demographics, it will become an impressive contribution to Google’s development. Should Google be reluctant to accept the conditions of the Chinese government, the company should keep in mind the number of potential users that this agreement involves.

The next step in the plan is based on knowledge improvement. The Google team has already taken a significant step and studied some of the cultural aspects of China along with the country’s recent announcements and achievements in different fields. It is recommended to continue this educational program with an additional focus on international relations China has been able to develop with different countries.

For example, regardless of the already damaged reputation of the country, China has defined its cooperation with Russia as being at a historic high point as the two nations share common concerns and are developing common positions regarding current international problems.12 Therefore, Google should research this aspect to clarify the goals that have been set, the methods used, and the outcomes achieved. It is also possible to invite the representatives of other countries to provide education about Chinese international relationships to Google employees.

Once Google obtains a solid background of knowledge about China, the time will be right to take certain steps and begin cooperating with the Chinese government. One major recommendation is to understand and accept China as a nation that has its own principles and morals. It is not enough to offer a product or service, but Google must demonstrate its readiness to respect Chinese culture and traditions. Therefore, respect for Chinese laws and regulations within a political context will comprise an obligatory step.

In order to avoid ethical dilemmas because of the company’s Code of Conduct, it is recommended to “inculturate” the code. According to the investigations of David Holeton, inculturation “implies a willingness in worship to listen to culture… it has to make contact with the deep feelings of people. It can only be achieved through openness to innovation and experimentation.”13 For example, a new Code of Conduct must be developed in a bilingual format that encourages the Chinese to understand their opportunities and recognize their roles as users. At the same time, the role of the government can be properly identified in this new code. For example, Google may use its servers behind the Firewall but will have to honor a number of rules and restrictions.

A final step in this management action plan is to introduce the code to the Chinese government in the most appropriate way. For example, the Chinese language has a symbol “to listen” that consists of five other symbols—ears, eyes, heart, you, and undivided attention—explaining the necessity to listen and watch properly during negotiations.14 Attention to this symbol would demonstrate Google’s readiness to cooperate and respect the traditions of a new culture. This can help to satisfy the Chinese government with the chosen approach and may change its current state of alertness and loftiness to support and understanding.

However, the use of such a symbol is not in itself sufficient to improve China’s attitude to a new service provider. Therefore, the effective organization of a meeting, the choice of a menu, and even behavior, including a general appearance, body movements, and the quality of speech, must be observed at the highest level. Emotions play a crucial role in negation as well as the intention to work out a resolution to a dispute.15 The level of professionalism demonstrated by the Google team will facilitate displaying the best qualities and knowledge to meet the expectations of the Chinese government and encourage the desire to cooperate.


In general, negotiations between the Google team and the Chinese government can be characterized by a number of ethical considerations and legal issues. On the one hand, the Chinese government is playing a serious role in developing the country and establishing productive international relationships. Furthermore, China has a specific Great Firewall system that not only protects all Internet users but also censors online data.

On the other hand, Google is offering its international services to all people, providing them with access to useful and “not evil” information. The two parties each have their own interests and expectations for this new agreement. Nevertheless, it is difficult to offer one solution and ensure its effectiveness. Therefore, a list of alternative ideas, from the choice of the tone used in communication to the use of special visual signs, should be implemented in the action plan. Google therefore must be ready to improve its Code of Conduct and demonstrate its respect for the rules and regulations of the country where its services are to be offered.

Reference List

Baker, J. ‘Do It from the Inside: Inculturation in the West’, New Theology Review, vol. 30, no. 2, 2018, pp. 1-9.

Grogan, C., and Brett, J., ‘Google and the Government of China: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Negotiations’, Kellogg School of Management Cases, 2006. Web.

Guangzong, M., ‘China’s Worrying Decline in Birth Rate: China Daily Columnist’, The Straits Times. Web.

Gunia, B. C., Brett, J. M., and Gelfand, M. J., ‘The Science of Culture and Negotiation’, Current Opinion in Psychology, vol. 8, 2016, pp. 78-83.

Kelly, E. J., and Kaminskienė, N., ‘Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Negotiation and Mediation’, International Comparative Jurisprudence, vol. 2, no. 1, 2016, pp. 55-60.

Lewicki, R. J., Barry, B., and Saunders, D. M., Essentials of Negotiation, 6th edn., New York, NY, McGraw Hill Education, 2016.

Nossel, C., ‘Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China’, Foreign Policy. Web.

Simpson, E., ‘Globalization Has Created a Chinese Monster’, Foreign Policy, 2018. Web.

Westcott, B., ‘China Says Relations with Russia at ‘best level in history’’, CNN. 2018. Web.

Yang, Y., de Cremer, D., and Wang, C., ‘How Ethically Would Americans and Chinese Negotiate? The Effects of Intra-Cultural Versus Inter-Cultural Negotiations’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 145, no. 3, 2017, pp. 659-670.


  1. C. Grogan and J. Brett, ‘Google and the Government of China: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Negotiations’, Kellogg School of Management Cases, 2006, p. 1. Web.
  2. S. Nossel, ‘Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China’, Foreign Policy, 2018. Web.
  3. E. Simpson, ‘Globalization Has Created a Chinese Monster’, Foreign Policy, 2018. Web.
  4. C. Grogan and J. Brett, ‘Google and the Government of China: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Negotiations’, Kellogg School of Management Cases, 2006, p. 12. Web.
  5. Ibid, p. 2.
  6. R. J. Lewicki, B., Barry, and D. M. Saunders, Essentials of Negotiation, 6th edn., New York, NY, McGraw Hill Education, 2016, p. 244.
  7. Y. Yang, D. de Cremer, and C. Wang, ‘How Ethically Would Americans and Chinese Negotiate? The Effects of Intra-Cultural Versus Inter-Cultural Negotiations’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 145, no. 3, 2017, p. 659.
  8. C. Grogan and J. Brett, ‘Google and the Government of China: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Negotiations’, Kellogg School of Management Cases, 2006, p. 5. Web.
  9. R. J. Lewicki, B., Barry, and D. M. Saunders, Essentials of Negotiation, 6th edn., New York, NY, McGraw Hill Education, 2016, p. 252.
  10. B. C. Gunia, J. M. Brett, and M. J. Gelfand, ‘The Science of Culture and Negotiation’, Current Opinion in Psychology, vol. 8, 2016, p. 80.
  11. M. Guangzong, ‘China’s Worrying Decline in Birth Rate: China Daily Columnist’, The Straits Times. 2018. Web.
  12. B. Westcott, ‘China Says Relations with Russia at ‘best level in history’’, CNN. 2018. Web.
  13. J. Baker, ‘Do It from the Inside: Inculturation in the West’, New Theology Review, vol. 30, no. 2, 2018, p. 8.
  14. E. J. Kelly, and N. Kaminskienė, ‘Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Negotiation and Mediation’, International Comparative Jurisprudence, vol. 2, no. 1, 2016, p. 58.
  15. Ibid, p. 55.

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