Microsoft and Yahoo released a joint statement saying that the China issue is one for governments and not private industry.
"While we believe that companies have a responsibility to identify appropriate practices in each market in which they do business, we think there is a vital role for government-to-government discussion of the larger issues involved. We urge the United States government to take a leadership role in this regard and have initiated a dialogue with relevant U.S. officials to encourage such government-to-government engagement. "
Microsoft and Yahoo also said that there are companies in markets that would love to see them leave, which is why they won't.
"Indeed, there are undoubtedly officials and domestic competitors in most markets who would see great advantage in our withdrawal from their countries. We think such a decision would not be in the best interests of the people we serve there."
The two companies, whose revenues surpass that of many countries, say that they do not have the leverage to foster change in countries with restrictive policies.
"While we will actively work to encourage governments around the world to embrace policies on Internet content that foster the freer exchange of ideas and promote maximum access to information, we also recognize that, acting alone, our leverage and ability to influence government policies in various countries is severely limited. "
It is interesting that in November, Google hired as its head of corporate communications Elliot Schrage a fellow who has great experience with dealing with foreign governments.