For the same reason that applies anywhere else: to make a profit. China is a huge country: in terms of geography, population, and now economics.1
Huge Market, Huge ProblemsI think a publicly-owned international company might have trouble explaining to its stockholders why it wasn't trying to get a piece of the Chinese market for whatever goods or services it offered.
On the other hand, doing business in China means deciding to put up with the sort of interest the country's leaders take in what their subjects say, do, and think. Or deciding that enough is enough, and pulling out.
If it's so bad, why don't we hear more about the Party's zeal for control and conformity?
I think Google's experience shows why so many international firms stay politely silent:
"Google has become a 'political tool' vilifying the Chinese government, an official Beijing newspaper said on Monday, warning that the U.S. Internet giant's statements about hacking attacks traced to China could hurt its business....
"...Last week, Google said it had broken up an effort to steal the passwords of hundreds of Google email account holders, including U.S. government officials, Chinese human rights advocates and journalists. It said the attacks appeared to come from China....
"...By saying that Chinese human rights activists were among the targets of the hacking, Google was 'deliberately pandering to negative Western perceptions of China, and strongly hinting that the hacking attacks were the work of the Chinese government,' the People's Daily overseas edition, a small offshoot of the main domestic paper, said in a front-page commentary....
"...'Google should not become overly embroiled in international political struggle, playing the role of a tool for political contention," the paper added.
" 'For when the international winds shift direction, it may become sacrificed to politics and will be spurned by the marketplace,' it said, without specifying how Google's business could be hurt....
"...In February, overseas Chinese websites, inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Arab world, called for protests across China, raising Beijing's alarm about dissent and prompting tightened censorship of the Internet.
"China already blocks major foreign social websites such as Facebook and Twitter."
- "Gmail, China, Knee-Jerk Response, and the Information Age"
(June 4, 2011)
- "China, Paper on How to Bring Down USA Power Grid: All a Big Misunderstanding?"
(March 20, 2010)
- "Google Pulling Out of China? I've Heard Worse News"
Apathetic Lemming of the North (March 14, 2010)
- "World Bank Group Network Hacked; Chinese IPs Used: Just What We Need"
(October 10, 2008)
- "China Shot 12: Don't Worry, They're 'Mobsters' "
(July 19, 2009)
- "Tiananmen Square 20th Anniversary: A Losing Battle for Traditional Information Gatekeepers"
(June 3, 2009)
- "China paper warns Google may pay price for hacking claims"
Chris Buckley, Edition: U.S., Reuters (June 6, 2011)
1 China's gross domestic product, per person, is about $7,600 - not quite on a par with America's $47,200, or Saudi Arabia's $24,200, but well beyond Nicaragua's $3,000 per capita GDP. And China's per capita GDP is growing. 1 It isn't the economic disaster area of the Cold War world.
"Since the late 1970s China has moved from a closed, centrally planned system to a more market-oriented one that plays a major global role - in 2010 China became the world's largest exporter...."I think that's all good news. I want China to be wealthy, and for individuals in China to have large disposable incomes. I'll admit to having slightly selfish motives.
(China, CIA World Factbook)
International trade existed before there were nations, which lets archaeologists study the economics of ancient cultures - and that's another topic. We're more obviously connected to each other now, I think - and "global economy" is more than a nifty phrase for politicos and journalists.
The way I see it, rich people can buy more stuff than poor people - and are more likely to have money they're willing to lend to entrepreneurs. China is a huge market today. If folks living there were as wealthy as your average Saudi citizen or American, some might decide to come to Minnesota for fishing or winter sports: which would help the economy here.
Sources: CIA World Factbook, China (updated on May 26, 2011), Nicaragua (updated on May 26, 2011), Saudi Arabia (updated on May 26, 2011), United States (updated May 26, 2011).