Microsoft (Not) To Reconsider China Presence

Related entries: Business Issues, Corporate News, General, Risk & Law

I almost spilt my tea over breakfast the other day (and I guess big Bill will have done the same with his Starbucks coffee) , when I read comments by Microsoft senior counsel, Fred Tipson, suggesting that the “Little Flaccid” software company might reconsider its presence in China due to censorship issues. Addressing and internet conference in Athens he said:

    “We have to decide if the persecuting of bloggers reaches a point that it’s unacceptable to do business there.”

It is with less surprise that I read the company’s official clarification on the BBC….

    “Microsoft is not considering the suspension of the company’s internet services in China…On the contrary, it is committed to continuing to offer services and communications tools in China as it believes it is better for customers that Microsoft is present in global markets with these tools and services as this can not only promote greater communication, but can also help to foster economic opportunity and social collaboration.”

No kidding! But there is an important issue for companies here. What company representatives say about China – whether it be “one” China issues and human rights (remember Rupert Murdoch and Star TV on democracy?), or comment on “government” competitors such as Lenovo, as in the case of Dell – may or may not represent company policy…but will have an impact. Often negative.

I frequently tell my clients that they need to decide how they want to engage with China, and to make sure that the message is spread around the business. This is especially important in the case of big brands, or in sensitive industries such as media or banking. The challenge is made more difficult by the fact that many global companies have different business groups that are linked only by the mother company. So, while one glossy magazine title is launched in the mainland, another news-driven title from the same stable might headline in the US on one of the “difficult” issues. Not a good mix in China’s eyes, and neither title will be welcome.

It is not that people should avoid having opinions; it is just that companies should have clear policies – and a communications strategy to deal with any unpleasant surprises when the occur.

See news source:

    Microsoft restates China policy
    BBC News – UK
    Microsoft has restated its position on China following comments by one of its senior legal staff. Earlier this week, Microsoft senior …

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.