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Google's Future in China Hangs in the Balance

• David Talbot via Technology Review

Google's ability to operate any kind of Internet business in the world's largest market hangs in the balance as China weighs whether it will renew Google's Internet license, which officially expired June 30.

Under threat: Google’s headquarters in Beijing.
Credit: Flickr

China has expressed dismay at Google's rerouting of search traffic to an uncensored site in Hong Kong, but has not yet disclosed whether it will try to shut down Google in China. "Given that they've not said anything so far, it probably indicates that decisions at fairly high levels are involved and that [the Chinese government] understands that whatever decision gets made is going to get a lot of attention globally and will send a signal that goes well beyond China's relationship with Google," says Rebecca MacKinnon, a China Internet expert and a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy.

"Their inclination will be to punish Google so that everybody stays in line," MacKinnon adds. "But on the other hand, not renewing the license would send a broader signal about just how open the market is, or isn't, in China. You've got President Hu Jintao getting ready to travel to the U.S. for a summit. A refusal of Google's ICP [Internet Content Provider] license would certainly add to the pile of negatives in the relationship, so I imagine they are weighing that."

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