Back in January, Google threatened to pull out of China and promised to stop censoring results served to Chinese users. They followed through on their promise in March and started redirected all Google.cn users to the uncensored Google.hk domain. Quite obviously, this didn’t sit well with the government of China.
Although, the government didn’t officially react to Google’s move, they must have privately made their displeasure known to Google. Google’s David Drummond has now revealed that the Chinese government won’t renew Google’s Internet Content Provider license, if Google didn’t stop redirecting users to the Hong Kong site. Google’s ICP license is up for renewal on June 30 and without an ICP license Google would basically go dark in mainland China.
Contrary to Google’s initial assertion, it appears that Google isn’t quite ready to face the prospect of “having to shut down Google.cn”. Google has backtracked slightly from their original stance and will stop redirecting users to its Hong Kong services. Instead, Google will direct Chinese users to a new landing page that will prominently link to Google.hk, which the users must browse to, if they wish to use Google Search. Google will provide only services like music and translation from its Chinese domain name.
It will be interesting to see if Google’s clever bit of maneuvering is sufficient for the Chinese government. If it is not, then Google’s determinedness to do the right thing will be really tested.