First off, it's clearly less evil to refuse the service. Other providers of services can be found. If not, the Chinese government can create a Bureau of Search. Or whatever. They've got a fucking billion people, they can solve their own problems.
I don't think it is clear (though I accept that you do.)
As for search engines, we know from experience that the technology used makes a difference. I would not so easily make the presumption that the benefits that Google can provide the average chinaperson can so easily be duplicated or even approached by Chinese nationals.
Me, I'm actually a big fan of Chinese culture. They've provided the world with some amazing inventions, religions, and philosophies. They have made significant contributions in every field of human pursuit, with the possible exception of jazz. It's just their government I can't stand.
Well, I've spent a lot of time there (the mainland too), as part of long term study of Chinese writing and martial arts in general, and I've found that there are many culturally based issues that repel me. Eating (and wearing) cats and dogs. Dumping female babies. Superstition at a level we left behind probably a century ago (though we still have far to go in that area.) They're an old, old culture with many warts, and I have a lot of trouble with those warts. Like you, I appreciate many things about them. But I'm not going to give them a rousing pass and blame everything that is distressing to me on their government, either.
However, this won't be the only ethical compromise China will demand from Google. I am sure of that. The Chinese government is a web of graft and corruption; dealing with it on this broad and high a level, Google will very likely find that proximity to corruption breeds new corruption.
You may be sure, but I am just as sure that you are merely speculating. :) Also, our government is a web of graft, corruption, incompetence, superstition, and outright constituional erosion. Glass houses, and all that.
If China were a poor and desperate nation and Google was demanding they change their culture before they would do business with them, then you'd have a point. But China is a strong and viable country, and it is Google who is bending its culture to conform to China's needs.
It is useful to go there and spend some time outside the cities. You'd be amazed at the level of poverty that is the norm for huge numbers of Chinese citizens. They may, at the moment, have an Internet connection at a central location in town, but then again, they may not. I spent a couple of months in rural areas last year, and it wasn't common then. No matter what, the most important lever to get out of poverty is, in my estimation, information. Information that can be used to increase productivity, disseminate labor-saving methods, enhance communications and leverage commerce. Google is a heck of a tool for this for those that are able to get to it. I truly think they'd be better of with it, than without it, and I think they'll come to the freedoms we hold so dear sooner based on having more tools to lift themselves up. Do you have to have an immediate transition to US-style democracy and moderate censorship, or can you find it in your heart to give these people some room to breathe? It's taken us hudreds of years to get to where we are today, and we still can't show female nipples on broadcast television, nor utter certain words of truly mundane value, so maybe it could actually be ok if these people don't get it all done at once, not so?
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