Google's back in China, but who's won?
Google pulled out of China earlier in the year in an argument over censorship that began with rumours that the communist government there had hacked into the GMail accounts of political activists in the country. The government then, in the ensuing row, went on to censor the search giant until Google eventually had no other choice but to pull out.
Now though they're back up and running, but who, if anybody, has won the row and can it last this time?
Google had previously got around censorship simply by redirecting it's google.cn domain to it's .com.hk Hong Kong equivalent. Hong Kong it still a Chinese province after being handed back by the UK in 2000, but it was too much of a centre for the free-market economy to ever be tamed.
Now, instead of a blanket redirect, users searching for blocked content will simply be offered a link to the Hong Kong site. This has, for now at least, helped the company get around a threat to suspend it's operating licence in the country.
The company has also started hosting content in China, a legal requirement for internet companies that wish top operate there, though they say that even that content can't be censored. In a statement they "Without an ICP licence, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn—so Google would effectively go dark in China."
The fact remains that China is such a huge market that a company such as Google, which has struggled to gain market share there, would suffer tremendously if they chose not to operate in the world's fastest-growing economy.
So is this a climb-down by the Chinese government, Google, both or neither? At the moment it's stalemate between the two sides. Neither is caving in but neither is giving the other what they want. This argument is set to roll on and on but it will be watched carefully by other internet companies, such as Microsoft with their Bing search engine, and campaigners for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.Advertisement