Back in January 2010, Google declared that it was no longer willing to continue censoring search results on Google.cn, and that it would possibly shut down the Chinese search page, and potentially even its offices in China. In March, Google backed that talk up by redirecting Google.cn to Google.com.hk, a move that enabled it to keep providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese but from Hong-Kong.
At the end of last month, the Chinese government made it clear to the company that it wasn’t happy with the redirect, and that its Internet Content Provider license would not be renewed if they would keep up this “unacceptable” behavior.
Google flinched, and set up a landing page on the Google.cn domain that took all visitors of that site who clicked anywhere on said page to the Hong Kong-based search page, enabling users to conduct Web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translation, which Google can provide locally without filtering.
Google submitted its ICP license renewal application around the same time, hoped for the best, and CEO Eric Schmidt just yesterday said he was confident the Chinese government would renew its license to operate a website. He was right.
Google told Reuters on Friday that Beijing had indeed renewed the license, thus averting a potential shutdown of its search page in the fast-growing Internet market, the world’s biggest with over 400 million estimated users.
The renewal of the license had been in doubt due to the tension between Google and Chinese authorities over alleged hacking of Gmail accounts and censorship of Google search results.
But as you can tell from the update in the earlier blog post about its China stance, things seem to have cooled down, at least for now:
We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China.
End of story, or just the beginning of a new chapter? Time will tell.