Case Detail

Case Summary

A New Approach to China: Google and Censorship in the Chinese Market

Case Number: 5-211-255, Year Published: 2011

HBS Number: KEL590

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Authors: Jeanne Brett; Lauren Pilcher; Lara Christina Sell

Key Concepts

Google, China, International Negotiations, Conflict Resolution, Censorship, Crisis Management, Corporate Values, Ethics, Negotiating Teams, Negotiation Strategy, Chinese Government, Intra-organizational Negotiation , Cross-cultural Negotiation, Technology


The first across-the-table negotiation between Google and China concluded successfully in 2006, when Google received a license to establish a local domain ( targeted at Chinese Internet users and not subject to the “Great Firewall”. During these negotiations both Google and the Chinese government struggled to reach an outcome that would be acceptable to their constituents. Google was caught between pleasing its shareholders and preserving its reputation for free access to information, while China was balancing the desire for cutting-edge search technology and the concern that liberal access to information would undermine its political-economic model. In the end, the negotiation resulted in Google operating two domains in China: and On the .cn website, Google complied with Chinese legislation through self-censoring. Google’s search market share in China grew to about 36 percent at the end of 2009.
In early 2010, Google announced that its corporate infrastructure had been the target of a series of China-based cyber attacks and accused the Chinese government of attempting to further limit free speech on the web. These incidents led to a public conflict and private negotiations between Google and the Chinese government, which culminated in July 2010 when the Chinese government renewed the license knowing that Google was redirecting all Chinese customers search to its site This case concerns the changes in Google and the Chinese government’s environment that led to Google withdrawing services from and the Chinese government saving face by renewing the license.
Students will learn that across-the-table negotiations are often preceded by internal negotiations, based on conflicting interests within one party. The case is based on the publicly reported events surrounding two series of negotiations between the U.S. technology giant Google and the Chinese Government regarding Google’s license in China.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how parties’ positions and interests change over time due to external and internal changes in business, political, and economic policies; 
  • Be able to identify and anticipate conflicting interests on own side and across the table negotiations, addressing the difficulty of balancing internal conflicts;
  • Apply negotiation strategy to manage conflicting interests with detailed planning (issues, interests, BATNAS, RPs) and using the “Power, Rights, Interest” framework.

Number of Pages: 18

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Organizational Behavior

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: China

Industry: Technology

Organization Name: Google

Organization Size: Medium

Year of Case: 2010