Case Detail

Case Summary

Google and the Government of China: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Negotiations

Case Number: 5-406-752, Year Published: 2006

HBS Number: KEL242

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Authors: Jeanne Brett; Christopher D Grogan

Key Concepts

Negotiations, Ethics, Negotiation Strategies, Business and Politics, Conflict Management, Cross-Cultural Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility, International Business


This case is based on the negotiation between Google and the Chinese government to allow access by Chinese citizens to a high-speed Chinese version of the Google search engine. In order to reach agreement with the Chinese government, Google had to agree to allow the government to censor access to some sites turned up by Google’s search engine. In agreeing, Google compromised its open access policy. There were inquiries into the agreement by the U.S. Congress and some outcry from U.S. citizens.

The learning objectives of the case include:
(1) Learning how to analyze a negotiation from the perspectives of each of the parties when one party is a government and the other a private-sector organization. What motivates each party to come to the negotiation table and to reach an agreement? A subpoint here is the difference between short-term and longer-term interests.
(2) Addressing the difficulties of balancing business ethics and financial objectives. What does it mean to be ethical in a for-profit business environment? At what point do ethical considerations outweigh financial ones? How do you make those choices? Are there creative ways to get around ethical situations?
(3) Understanding the long-term effects of short-term actions. Was Google’s subsequent action to notify its Chinese users whenever their searches had been filtered, which apparently came as a surprise to the Chinese government, ethical? Wise? What are the long-term implications of causing a party to lose face?

Number of Pages: 15

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Organizational Behavior, Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: China

Industry: Internet Search Engines

Organization Name: Google

Organization Size: Large

Year of Case: 2006