Google just announced that its Internet licensed was renewed by the Chinese government. Google originally automatically redirected google.cn users to their Hong Kong site, google.com.hk. Now, China is forcing users to click on the link for Google Hong Kong (or almost anywhere on the page) on the google.cn page.
Google did enough technical maneuvering to get what it wanted: a renewed license. Google gets to tell the good news story that it is still in China and that it doesn’t censor. The bad news is that mainland Chinese people will still struggle to get information, and the Chinese government will still push its companies at the expense of foreign ones. Hacking and censorship, including toward Google, will continue.
Google could have made a bigger statement for Internet freedom and the importance of free speech by pulling all of its operations out of China. But Google stays in China, which helps its business story to shareholders and clients.
With Google’s position settled for now, will there still be a push for more Internet freedom in China? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech on Internet freedom a week after Google’s initial announcement, but it is hard to see any progress in the aftermath.
Google’s relationship with China is based on making money. The U.S. government and promoters of free speech and information will no longer have the Google story to help their cause; it will be back to the same fight to break through the Great Firewall and past Chinese censors.