Following a contentious spat with authorities over censorship laws in China, which had many wondering whether the Internet giant would be forced to abandon this market, Google today announced that the Chinese government has renewed its license
to operate in the country. The renewal had been in doubt after the company began redirecting Chinese users to its unfiltered search site in Hong Kong. However, with the license set to expire a last minute compromise seems to have done the trick: Google simply offered a link on google.cn to the Hong Kong site.
This is an important breakthrough for Google. The company only draws about a third or less of the Internet search engine traffic in China, significantly less than its local rival Baidu, but the loss of its license would have locked it out of world's single largest market of online users -- not to mention mobile users. The potential for income in that country is huge, so investors are obviously happy -- shares climbed 3.1% to $470.69 in premarket trading in New York.
Google is happy too, and so is China. Whether this represents a loss for freedom of speech advocates is another question. Chinese officials still may block access to the Hong Kong website, but for now that hasn't been the case.