x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Is it really worth the effort?

The lure of China's 1.6 billion-plus market has proved irresistible to many of the world's major companies. But two of the largest, Google and Rio Tinto, must be wondering whether it is worth the effort.

The lure of China's 1.6 billion-plus market has proved irresistible to many of the world's major companies. But two of the largest, Google and Rio Tinto, must be wondering whether it is worth the effort. Google's withdrawal from the mainland, re-routing internet searches through Hong Kong, is a curious fudge. At best it is a tacit acknowledgement that it should never have entered the Chinese market and agreed to censor its searches. At worst, it risks a trade war between the US and China.

Google's mantra, "Don't be evil", has been compromised. Equally embarrassing, it acquired only 30 per cent of the search market. This at least makes it easier to exit. Rio Tinto's dilemma is more acute, as China is one of its biggest markets. Despite the company claiming its employees had done nothing wrong, they have now admitted their guilt in court. Of course, bribery is widespread in the Middle Kingdom and many executives are forced to give - and tempted to accept - bribes.

The maximum sentence for bribery in China is about seven years, but that can be extended to up to 15 years if the sums are deemed "huge" by a court. While the lure remains attractive, the costs of business in the country is high. Chinese authorities say it is business, not personal, but some are beginning to realise that in China, politics is only a click away. @Email:rwright@thenational.ae