|By Maureen O'Gara||
|July 12, 2010 05:45 AM EDT||
Google said Friday and China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology confirmed Sunday that the company’s Internet Content Providers (ICP) license to operate a web site inside the country has been renewed for another year.
The rubberstamp took roughly 10 days since Google’s license expired and it submitted paperwork proposing to scotch the regime’s censorship with an intermediate “landing page” where users have to click on the message “We have moved to google.com.hk” to get Chinese language results.
The state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua mumbled something over the weekend about Google – or rather its stand-in Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Company, which operates Google’s web site – agreeing in its application to “ensure the company provides no law-breaking content.” It also submitted to government oversight.
The Chinese government can of course revoke the license at any time. The Wall Street Journal quoted a dissident as saying this is only the beginning of the wrangling.
To Beijing’s irritation Google had been automatically redirecting search traffic to Hong Kong since Google pulled the pin on the self-censorship hand grenade back in March. It said it wouldn’t censor results anymore after the Chinese hacked its system.
The Chinese government subsequently made it clear it wouldn’t tolerate Google’s redirection gambit but it seems content enough with the landing page dodge. One wonders exactly where the pressure was applied. Was it US-Chinese trade relations? More dirty laundry about the hack? Unpublished concessions? Fear of backlash from other multinationals? Fear of losing Google’s even paper-thin participation?
One might expect the Chinese censors to build out their so-called Great Firewall now.
But without a license, Google could have gotten kicked out of the country on its ear. Now at least it gets to retain its toehold and assert that it’s not censoring the content. Google remaining in China is deemed a win for both Google and the Chinese government.
However, the New York Times thinks Google’s position has been weakened by the flap and points out that Chinese phone makers using Android have dropped Google search in favor of its bigger, more successful local rival Baidu’s, a move that could hurt Google’s mobile advertising ambitions.
It remains to be seen whether the landing page click impacts traffic.
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