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Bill Gates bats for China

BEIJING, Jan. 27 -- Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Monday that obeying local laws is a prerequisite for doing business in a foreign country, joining in the ongoing spat between Google and China over alleged cyber attacks a day after Beijing spoke out to defend its Web policy.

In an interview Monday with ABC television, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Monday that obeying local laws is a prerequisite for doing business in a foreign country. (Photo: peopledaily.com.cn)

In an interview Monday with ABC television, Gates called the row a "complex issue."

Different countries have different rules on censorship, Gates said, adding that Germany forbids pro-Nazi statements that would be protected as free speech in the United States.

"And so you have got to decide, do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not. If not, you may not end up doing business there," he said.

"The Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited. It's easy to go around it," Gates said.

The remarks came two weeks after Google said it would stop censoring its Chinese website, Google.cn, even if that means it has to leave the country. The company said it was alarmed by attacks by hackers from within China.

Google's complaints have received backing from the Obama administration.

Some foreign media immediately attacked Gates' comment, saying he did it for his own interest.

The Daily Telegraph Beijing correspondent wrote on his blog, "If internet censorship in China is really so ‘limited,' Mr Gates should ask himself why Google arrived at that decision, and why his own government has risked souring relations with its largest trading partner over the issue?"

Shi Yinhong, director of the Center of American Studies at the Renmin University of China, said Gates' remarks were candid in displaying the willingness of US companies to stay in China and continue their business operations.

"Washington's stance only ends up in mounting pressure for its enterprises in China, putting them in a dilemma," Shi said.

Pan Yue, a professor at the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, said Google's intention to withdraw from China might be exploited by the US government.

But for Google, Pan added, it is a strategic consideration whether the company would be willing to give in to the White House attempt.

"One thing is for sure, both sides (Google and the Chinese authorities) are crystal clear on the importance of keeping the friction controllable," Pan said.

Liu Dan, an Internet industry analyst, said the level of how localized foreign-invested Internet companies operate in China can become a decisive factor in their business prospects.

"Baidu, a joint-venture search engine, has the cutting edge in government relations, and Microsoft, which entered China in 1992, has a relatively deep understanding of the Chinese market," Liu said.

The top management of Google was not familiar with the conditions in the Chinese market, the development of the Internet industry or relevant laws and regulations, the an Oracle China manager said.

"It's a lesson for Google. It has to learn how to strengthen its cooperation with Chinese authorities, how to express itself while ensuring understanding," the source said, adding that the crisis is due to "immaturity" and that it will only obstruct Google's development.

Despite the current impasse, Google is in "delicate negotiations" with the Chinese government to keep in China its research center, an advertising sales team that generates most of the company's revenue in the country and a fledgling mobile-phone business, the AP reported Tuesday, quoting a person familiar with the company's thinking.

(Source: Global Times)



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