Updates to this story
China has today renewed Google's Internet Content Provider (ICP) licence after initially threatening to revoke it if the search giant did not cooperate with its censorship efforts.
Google made the announcement on its blog, where it said: “We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China.”
In January of this year Google withdrew its cooperation with China on censoring its search results after a series of hacking attempts targeted at its proprietary code and the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.
It since employed a system of automatically redirecting visitors from the Google.cn website to the Hong Kong variant, where results are not censored. This angered the Beijing government, which threatened to pull the plug on Google's Chinese operations if it did not stop the redirect.
Google decided to meet half way and stop automatic redirects, but offer a link on Google.cn to the uncensored site, allowing users to make the choice on what kind of results they wanted to see. Google believed that this would work under Chinese law, while not betraying its anti-censorship principles.
Google initially said it was “hopeful” for a licence renewal, which was up for review on June 30. However, a partial block of between 10 and 66 percent of its Chinese search engine on the renewal day dampened that optimism, leading many to speculate that China might take a hardline approach with the company.
However, earlier today Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, revealed much more confidence on the issue. He said: “We would expect we would get the necessary license. We now expect to get a renewal.”
It is probably likely that Schmidt was already aware of the licence approval earlier today when he made his comments. He is undoubtedly happy that his company gets to continue its operations in China, offering it millions in revenue on an annual basis, which is set to grow as it expands its business there.