In March, a feud between Google and the Chinese government culminated with the former setting up an automatic redirect, which forwarded visitors of its mainland China site to the uncensored Hong Kong portal. The PRC wasn’t going to take that on the chin. Judging from the latest update on the official Google blog, China effectively presented the search giant with an ultimatum: drop the redirect or get out.
In less blunt terms, Google explains that Chinese officials threatened not to renew Google’s Internet Content Provider (ICP) license. The company needs that license to operate a commercial website in China. Eventually, Google buckled and came up with the following solution:
We have therefore been looking at possible alternatives, and instead of automatically redirecting all our users, we have started taking a small percentage of them to a landing page on Google.cn that links to Google.com.hk—where users can conduct web search or continue to use Google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering. This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page.
The redirect will disappear "over the next few days." Google says its ICP license was up for renewal on June 30, and it’s submitted a renewal application "based on this approach." We’ll find out soon enough what China makes of this more nuanced but still-somewhat-defiant approach.