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China Renews Google’s License to Operate

The Chinese government has renewed Google’s Internet Content Provider (ICP) license, Google has confirmed, enabling the company to continue operating in the world’s largest Internet market. Last month, Google stopped redirecting traffic from its google.cn search service to Hong Kong to sidestep the worst of China’s Internet censorship regime that demands the company block any information the government believes harmful or subverts state power. Google stopped the redirection, put in a link to Google’s Hong Kong operation instead, and applied for its license renewal. The tactic apparently worked.

“We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP (internet content provider) license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China,” said Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond, in a statement distributed via email.

Google offered no other details regarding the license renewal.

Although industry watchers generally think Google’s continued presence in the Chinese market is a positive development overall, the renewed ICP is unlikely to put an end to friction between Google and the Chinese government…or do anything to ease testy relations between China and the United States over Internet freedoms. None of the underlying issues between China and U.S. businesses like Google operating in the country have been resolved. Google and other companies are still required to censor Internet content and search results according to Chinese government requirements—which means omitting information about things like the Falun Gong movement and advocates of Chinese democracy along with pornographic and violent material. The Chinese government also shut down all Internet access in the Xinjiang region last year following riots, in an effort partly designed to prevent protesters from getting their message out to the wider world (like Iranian protesters did in the wake of the recent controversial Iranian presidential election). Internet access in Xinjiang was shut down for 10 months, only being restored this May.

China is already the largest Internet market on the planet, despite relatively low levels of Internet access across its total population.

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