News / Asia

China Renews Google's License

Google says China has renewed its operating license following months of contention over Google's refusal to accept Chinese government censoring of its content.  

Tensions with Beijing erupted in January, when the computer company said it would no longer submit to Chinese government censorship and was prepared to leave China.  The American company also said it was the target of hacking attacks that it believed came from China.

In March, Google began to redirect visitors to its China website to a search site in Hong Kong that provided uncensored results.  Last week, Google stopped the automatic re-routing, and by Friday, Google said Chinese authorities renewed its license to operate a website.    

Google gave no details about the license renewal.

The company will clarify what products will be locally offered in the coming days, said Courtney Hohne, a Google spokeswoman based in Singapore.  And she welcomed China's decision to renew Google's Internet Content Provider license, adding that "we look forward to continuing to provide websearch and local products to our users in China."

On Wednesday, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Wednesday said it was reviewing Google's renewal application, but could not be reached for comment Friday because the decision was made public after business hours.

Without an ICP license, Google's search presence in China would have reverted back to when it did not have a localized search page.  China users who wanted to use Google to search the Internet would have had to turn to its offshore sites, meaning longer search times.

Internet providers in China are required to filter out content that Beijing considers illegal, such as websites organized by the outlawed group, Falun Gong.  China also blocks websites run by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and some international news sites, such as the Voice of America's Chinese language page.

China is the world's largest Internet market, with nearly 400 million users. But Google's search business in China accounts for a tiny slice of its $24 billion annual revenue. Estimates of Google's annual revenue in China range from $300 million to $600 million.  

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