China confirms renewal of Google’s license to operate after monthslong standoff

By Tini Tran, AP
Sunday, July 11, 2010

China renews Google’s operating license

BEIJING — China confirmed Sunday it has renewed Google’s license to operate in the world’s most populous country, ending a monthslong standoff over Internet censorship.

An official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which regulates Internet operations in China, said the government had approved the license for Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Co. Ltd., the operator of Google’s China website, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Officials at Google’s U.S.-based headquarters announced Friday that the company had received approval for another year.

China’s decision to allow Google to continue operations has resolved a monthslong dispute that had threatened the company’s future in the country.

The conflict arose in January when Google decided to end its four-year practice of omitting search results that the Chinese government considers subversive or pornographic. Google made the decision after blaming Chinese computer hackers for an attack it said was aimed at stealing the company’s technology and e-mail information from human rights activists.

The ministry official, who was not identified, said Guxiang had agreed to “abide by Chinese law” and “ensure the company provides no lawbreaking content,” Xinhua said.

The government website listed Guxiang among some 200 companies whose licenses had been renewed until 2012.

“After our assessment, we decided that Guxiang had basically met the requirements,” the official was quoted as saying.

Guxiang also agreed that all content it provides is subject to the supervision of government regulators, the official said.

The Chinese government operates the world’s most extensive system of Web monitoring and filtering, blocking pornographic sites as well as those seen as subversive to Communist rule.

Google won permission after bowing to pressure to eliminate an automatic detour around the country’s online censorship requirements.

Since March, Google had been automatically rerouting search requests from the mainland to its Hong Kong service. But search requests at from within mainland China now require an extra click that then takes the user to the Hong Kong site, which isn’t subject to Beijing’s censorship rules.

That small concession was enough to persuade China’s regulators to renew the license, the company said.

China is not yet a big moneymaker for Google, accounting for an estimated $250 million to $600 million of the company’s projected $28 billion in revenue this year. But the number of Internet users in China is estimated at 384 million, more than the nearly 200 million in the United States.

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