It would appear that Google’s delicate balancing act in China is yet again being challenged.
In March, Google made public their plan to move its Chinese-language Internet search operation in Hong Kong in hopes of bypassing censorship laws for companies that operate in mainland China. To this end Google had been redirecting search inquiries in China to its unfiltered site in Hong Kong to get round censorship issues.
Google announced late Tuesday night that China will not renew its Internet Content Provider license (a key authorization), unless Google stops redirecting Google.cn visitors to Google.com.hk.
Instead of automatically redirecting Google.cn users, Google has created a landing page at Google.cn “where users can conduct web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering,” Google said in a blog post. “This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page.”
However, the only thing on the landing page is a hyperlink to a special version of the Google.com.hk site. After they click through some services, such as maps and translation, are available with a .cn domain, but news, images, and other services are directed through the .com.hk domain.
Google is hopeful that this concession will be enough to appease the Chinese government. However, while Google isn’t automatically redirecting Google.cn visitors anymore, it really isn’t offering them a full service. The Chinese government is currently pushing for a rise in the amount of people able to access the internet in china (currently only 30%). Due to the potential increase in users, the Chinese search engine market is set to flourish, meaning a very profitable business opportunity. This business is currently being monopolised by the pro-government Chinese giant Baidu.
This article was inspired by www.news.cnet.com. For more on Google in China, you may want to read our article: Google Censors Chinas Search Results