Google Compromise Pays Off with Renewal of License in China

The Washington Post reports on the renewal of Google’s license to operate as an Internet Content Provider in China:

The renewal had been in doubt in recent days, as the existing license expired and Google, in what was considered a last-minute effort at compromise, decided to stop automatically redirecting Chinese users to its sister site in Hong Kong.

“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,” Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, wrote on the company’s blog.

There was no confirmation of the renewal Friday night from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which was handling the matter. There was also no mention of the renewal by any of the Chinese state-owned news sites that normally run breaking stories.

And from the New York Times:

Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley, said that Google won because “they get their operating license. Chinese Internet users win because they can continue to access some Google services.”

But Mr. Xiao said the Chinese government also would win, because while it forced Google to move its search service out of China and barred it from automatically redirecting users to its uncensored Hong Kong-based search engine, it also got to show its own people and the outside world that it was willing to balance economic issues and censorship.

“It is unprecedented for a private company to challenge Chinese Internet censorship,” Mr. Xiao said. “In the past, there would have been no doubt that the Chinese government would have punished Google.” For the government, finding a way to keep Google in the country “is a very calculated position that is good for China’s long-term development and openness,” Mr. Xiao said.

While Google’s stand against Chinese government censorship earned Google the good will of free speech and human rights advocates, it also came at a cost.

See also “Boy, Did Google Blow It In China” by Henry Blodget and “Why China won and Google lost” from ZDNet. Read more about Google in China via CDT.