Google's License in China Renewed: End of a Standoff?

The mainland portal stays up and running

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After a dramatic standoff back in January, it turns out Google will not, in fact, be leaving China completely. Early Friday morning, Google announced the Chinese government had renewed its license for, the company's mainland Web portal. Google "can continue offering limited services in China and direct users to the company's uncensored Hong Kong-based Chinese language search engine," reports The New York Times. For those concerned about relations between China and Western companies and about Google "giving in" on the issue of censorship, is this good news or bad news?

  • 'Very Good News All Around,' proclaims The Atlantic's James Fallows. "The Chinese government had a choice about whether to intensify its confrontation with Google--by refusing to accept Google's latest gesture on search-censorship as 'compliance' with Chinese law ... or instead to limit the damage to its international reputation, and to the interests of its own high-end users." It looks like it's choosing the latter.
  • Trouble Not Over for Google Renewing the license showed the Chinese government's "political savvy ... defusing a thorny issue," writes Paul Denlinger of The China Vortex, posting at Business Insider. But what this saga shows is that "Google did not have a channel for dialogue with the Chinese authorities since the company issued its statement in January." The matter was not handled very well on Google's side, he suggests. "Now, even though Google has its ICP license, it can only provide music and products search, not web page search. Among China's urban intelligentsia, Google was popular because of its web page search; now that service is not available." In the long run, "the Chinese government is the cat, and Google is the mouse."
  • Google's Compromise The Washington Post's Rob Pegorano evaluates the ethics here. On the one hand, by caving to get the license renewal, Google isn't doing anything different than the Yahoo and Bing Chinese sites are doing. On the other hand, in an "absolute" sense, you could argue that "Google wimped out," when they could have made a real statement. Pegorano says, though, that he doesn't "buy" this way of looking at it: "Google remains a for-profit company."
  • 'Google Flinched,' says TechCrunch's Robin Wauters. As a result, matters between China and the search giant "seem to have cooled down, at least for now."
  • The Market Approves "One interesting tidbit from the Wall Street Journal," notes Robert Quigley at Geekosystem: "In premarket trading, Google stock is shooting up and [Chinese search engine] Baidu stock is sinking down."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.