A Conversation with Google's Chairman and CEO

Article excerpt

Byline: Fareed Zakaria

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has long defended his company's decision to do business in China despite the restrictions that Beijing imposes on Internet freedom. Nevertheless, last week the company abruptly threatened to pull out after suffering hacker attacks believed to have originated in China. Schmidt explained why to NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Why did you make this decision? It surprised many people and many companies.

Google is a different kind of company than many others. The issue of operating in China was always complex for us. We were asked to accept a system of censorship that we were very uncomfortable with. But we had come to the conclusion that operating in China was better for everyone--us, the Chinese people--than staying out of the country. We have decided that we cannot participate in censorship anymore.

What happened over the last months to come to this decision?

We came across a lot of evidence of the monitoring of Chinese dissidents through the Web. We do not have clear evidence as to who was doing the monitoring, but you can draw your own conclusions.

Is there a lot of such monitoring?

There is probably a lot more than what we found.

Why did you announce this publicly rather than go to the Chinese government and try to work things out?

We are going to the Chinese government, and we hope we can work things out. But we want to be transparent. We don't want to keep secrets. So we decided to first make a public announcement and now we are having discussions with the Chinese government.

Are they going anywhere?

It's much too early to tell; they really have just begun.

Won't some people say that you have a fiduciary responsibility to your shareholders to maximize profit?

When we filed for our IPO, we attached to the document a statement about how we wanted to run our business. We said we were going to be different. …