In the wake of Microsoft's massive 18,000 employee lay-off, Reuters is reporting that employees at China's Nokia research center and factory in Beijing are staging protests. The establishment in Beijing employs 2,400 people. According to the Reuters article, the protesters would gather again on Friday to issue a list of their demands.
This comes just days after Microsoft offices were raided by Chinese officials intent on slapping an antitrust charge on the software company, and a couple months after the Chinese government started banning the use of Microsoft products like Windows 8 and.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in China, learning the culture and familiarizing myself with the people, that we are even hearing about protests is interesting to me for a couple reasons.
China has policies against protesting of any sort, and punishment for protesting is severe. And, when I say, 'severe,' I do mean that. I've been too close to situations in Beijing, Kunming, and other cities in-country where protests are met swiftly and directly with armed police. It's considered good practice that when you see a group of armed policemen heading a certain direction, it's best to just appear to walk calmly and casually (and quickly) the exact opposite direction before the gunshots commence.
Before we start rallying behind employee-led protests of Microsoft, I think it's best to understand the true intent of the demonstrations. If China policy were followed, the West would never hear about any sort of public protest. Protestors would be whisked away and jailed before the media had a chance to learn of any such gathering. Any show of protest, for any reason, is considered a crime and is taken by the Chinese government as loss of control over its people. Protests only happen in China if the government allows it. So, we're seeing what we're allowed to see. China is manipulating the media like it does its own people, and, sadly, many will fall for it.
Pure and simple, the Chinese government is using Microsoft as a political weapon. As Microsoft attempts to make inroads into a potentially lucrative Chinese market, the company is unwittingly exposing itself as a political chess piece. Chinese government sponsored hacks of foreign government systems is on the rise, yet they complain about the NSA and suggest that Microsoft software contains backdoors for U.S. espionage purposes.
News of China versus Microsoft will be ongoing. Count on it. Just make sure to keep a wary eye on what you read. Keep it all in perspective.