AFTER MICROSOFT SHUT down a popular Chinese-language blog recently, a barrage of anti-Microsoft messages began zinging around the blogosphere in China. One of them took that famous photo of a lone student blocking a line of tanks near Tiananmen Square and superimposed the Microsoft logo on each tank. Such an image is unlikely to improve Microsoft’s reputation in China. It may even be more damaging to its prospects than irritating China’s propaganda ministry, gatekeeper of all information-based business and the minder that Microsoft and other Western media companies are constantly trying to please.
Doing business in China requires flexibility. The law, where it exists, is often irrelevant; it is the decision-making of individual officials that matters. Western businesses sometimes have to bend over backward to please officials in order to secure access to China’s enormous market. Sometimes they go too far ” and this appears to be one of those times.