Google overhauls China site to help renew licence

Google is attempting to salvage its operations in China, offering a compromise to the government in return for the renewal of its operating licence. Yet some analysts believe the olive branch will not be enough to save its operation in the country from closure.

Google's top lawyer revealed on Monday night that it had made changes to its Chinese home page to mollify the authorities. Sources close to the company said the move was not a commercial decision, adding that the current revenues from the country were "immaterial".

Ian Maude, an analyst at Enders Analysis, said: "Google is in a difficult place and has come up with an elegant solution. It is unlikely to be favourably received by the Chinese government, however." He added: "The most likely scenario is Google will be blocked."

This marks the latest twist in the extraordinary saga of the internet search giant's operations in China. It has involved cyber attacks, debates over censorship, diplomatic spats and public relations issues as it tried to circumvent the "Great Firewall of China".

David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google, admitted that increasing access to information for Chinese users while abiding by local law "has not always been an easy balance to strike". This has been especially pertinent this year since the group announced it was no longer willing to censor results on its Chinese site

Currently every internet user who types in the url for the Chinese website is automatically redirected to the search engine's site hosted in Hong Kong, which offers uncensored content. Yet China's authorities are unhappy, according to Mr Drummond, and they have laid down an ultimatum.

"It's clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable," he said, adding: "If we continue redirecting users our Internet Content Provider licence will not be renewed."

The group said that if the licence were not renewed when it expires at the end of the month "Google would effectively go dark in China". Google re-submitted its licence renewal application after offering to change the way it operates in the country. It has already started taking a minority of users onto its Chinese site, where the music and text-translation services are available without filtering.

"This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on and gives users access to all of our services from one page," Mr Drummond said. In the next few days it will end the practice of redirecting the site entirely, taking users to a new page which has a link to the Hong Kong site. Insiders said the group was confident it would secure the licence after the changes, but added it would not return to censoring the site to guarantee its operations. Google's legal supremo added: "This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self-censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our licence will be renewed."

One source said it had been a "very tough couple of years for the company in China". The group started operating in the country in 2006, when it agreed to censor the site and was heavily criticised for the move outside China.

At the end of 2009, the company was subject to a cyber attack as hackers tried to spy on human rights advocates using its email system, although it was never explicitly stated that the government was behind the attack. Yet insiders said it had helped prompt the company's decision, in March, to end its censorship. The company is estimated to earn 3 per cent of its revenues from China.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn