Is Bill Gates downplaying Chinese censorship to gain market share for Microsoft? The CEO-turned philanthropist raised eyebrows on ABC's Good Morning America when he said that "Chinese efforts to censor the Internet have been very limited." For the most part, users can easily go around the firewall, Gates said. He also delivered a veiled criticism of Google saying businesses need to decide if they want to "obey the laws of the countries you're in" or "not end up doing business there."

His remarks come one week after Google refused to continue censoring its search results in China. Could Gates be cozying up to the Chinese to win inroads for Microsoft's Bing search engine? Two business writers offer their criticisms, while a tech blogger partially defends the billionaire:

  • Gates Is Out of His Mind, insists Preston Gralla at Computer World. "He's wrong. The Great Firewall of China is not 'very limited;' if it were limited the Chinese government would not bother to spend the amount of time and money it does enforcing Internet censorship. It's true that there are ways to attempt to circumvent it, such as anonymous proxy servers. But the vast majority of people in China have no idea how to do that. Chinese Internet censorship is not limited at all."
  • Gates Wants to Steal Google's Market Share, says Douglas A. McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street: "Gates is friendly with senior Chinese officials and has used this relationship to get the government to crack down on the piracy of Windows. He is now siding with Beijing, and potentially gaining favor, by indicating that Google should follow Chinese laws as a matter of good international business practice. Gates does not need to mention Google by name to make his point. Gates understands as well as anyone that if Google leaves China it will be an extraordinary opportunity for Microsoft's Bing search engine to gain market share in the world's largest internet market. He is taking the public opportunity to tell the Chinese that he is their ally and that Google is not."
  • Gates Is Kind of Right, writes Harry McCracken at Technologizer: "You can certainly make the case that by staying in China, U.S. Internet businesses are more likely to bring about greater freedom of expression than if they refuse to abide by censorship laws and abandoning the country. And Gates is right that the Great Firewall of China is easy to circumvent. But I've used the Internet in China-as, surely, has Bill Gates-and I wouldn't call the censorship 'very limited...'"