Most western companies are used to having their own way when moving to a new geographical location, but not so there. The furore over Google, which allowed open government censorship of its pages, is an example of this.

Although a lot of hot air about freedom of the internet has been spouted, it is not really that different from some of the less overt censorship that goes on elsewhere. At least the Chinese know they are being censored.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco have also taken some flak for seeming to capitulate to the Chinese government, in ways which would be unthinkable in the US or UK.

The size of the Chinese market offers huge potential and with its internal market growing so fast, western companies cannot risk being left out in the cold – even if they have misgivings about the political situation there.

There is a jarring noise to be heard in many boardrooms as PRs and marketing directors try to think of a way to justify their negotiations with a government responsible for shooting students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and is thought to be a serial abuser of human rights.

Hang on a minute, this is the same country that will host the 2008 Olympics. One of the arguments for awarding it the Games was that it would lead to fewer human rights abuses. Following that pattern of thought, more western companies operating in China has to be a positive thing.

Put bluntly, the size and scale of the potential market makes it acceptable to do business with a political organisation that abuses human rights. China is not alone in having a less than clean human rights record to which big business turns a blind eye, but it is one of the most straightforward about its political determination.

The normal rules and moral arguments do not apply to China, because of its economic influence on all of us. Western companies do business with lots of dodgy dictators and regimes, but it is the mouth-watering size of China with the ability to both scare and tantalize that presents a confusing dilemma.

Recently Brighton College, a prestigious public school, made Mandarin a compulsory subject for its older pupils and other UK schools are likely to follow suit. If private academia is prepared to stake a claim in the language of a country, even if in the recent past it did massacre students, you can bet there is something in it.

HR surveys cause confusion

Those poor beleaguered HR people seem to be behaving in an even more schizophrenic way than usual.

First of all, in a survey, six out of 10 of them tell UK business phone systems company, Inter-Tel, that flexible working increases workforce motivation and reduces stress. Then half of them go and say that home working makes for happier workers who are more productive and less likely to look for other jobs.

However, nine out of 10 of those same HR loons say they believe home-based employees are more likely to avoid working.

Right. Firing the office-based HR department and enforcing home working on them might clear things up.

MIS 100 on its way for 2006

If you had won the £125 million Euro lottery back in February, you would have zoomed straight into number 333 in the UK’s rich list, apparently.

Lists are a great way to gauge what is going on in a particular arena. Best selling books have lists, records are popular lists, although just lately slightly arbitrary.

Subjective lists have appeared as well, like the most damaging moment (Gerald Ratner’s infamous ‘crap’ speech) and most embarrassing (George Galloway’s cat moment on Channel Four’s Celebrity Big Brother). At MIS UK, we prefer our lists to be more scientific.

At the moment we are compiling the UK’s 100 biggest users of IT.

Regular MIS UK readers will be well aware that although it doesn’t have the toe-curling sentiment of the most embarrassing TV moments list, this is the most important and useful list of the year.

Don’t miss it – out in June. CIOs take note and please schedule some diary time for an interview over the next few weeks.