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Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Jan. 15

Google's China Challenge

The Chinese have Baidu (BIDU) so they don't need Google (GOOG - Get Report). Nevertheless, they would be making a dumb decision if they let Google go.

Google, one of the world's fastest growing and game-changing technology companies, said Tuesday that it's no longer willing to censor its search results in China and is considering shutting down its Web site and its offices in the country. Google announced plans to meet with the Chinese government over the next few weeks to discuss the basis on which the company can "operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all."

Google's statements were prompted by evidence that computer hackers had accessed the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google also said it discovered that at least 20 other large companies from a wide range of industries were targeted by hackers.

"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered -- combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the Web -- have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," said David Drummond, Google's senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer, on the company's blog.

Wow! Unlike Yahoo! (YHOO) which folded like a cheap suit over censorship in China, the gang at Google is making a moral stand on the Mainland. To which we here at the Five Dumbest Lab say, 'You go Google!'

Of course, Google derives a nearly immaterial amount of its $22 billion of annual revenue from its Chinese operations so it's not like it's giving up the keys to the kingdom. China represents about 1% of Google's sales, according to analysts' 2009 estimates. Given the size and rapid growth of China's Internet market, that portion is expected to grow this year.

No matter its true motive, Google is challenging the Chinese over their abusive practices and we applaud it. If the innovative tech giant pulls up its stakes and leaves China, then it's China's loss. We know stupid when we see it, and we hope the Chinese recognize that censorship is anything but a smart way to get ahead.

Dumb-o-meter score: 85 -- We don't think Google will leave China, but we admire Larry Page and Sergey Brin's brinksmanship.
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