Google could shutter its Google.cn search engine within weeks after talks with the Chinese government over censorship have stalled, according to a March 13 report in the Financial Times.
Citing a source familiar with Google’s position on the matter, the Times said the chances of Google closing its Chinese search engine are “99.9 percent,” with the action mostly a question of when, not if.
This latest step comes two months after the search engine in January vowed to stop censoring search results and to possibly exit business in China in total after it detected cyber-attacks from within China aimed at gaining access to the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that while talks were ongoing, he remained hopeful there would soon be a resolution so that Google didn’t have to leave the country entirely.
Google has about 36 percent of China’s search revenue, according to researcher Analysys International.
Though revenue from Google.cn is marginal in the grand scheme of the company’s business, there are some 400 million Internet users in China and the opportunities to expand its mobile Web by selling smartphones based on the Google Android operating system remain great.
Google has already delayed launching Android phones there because of its impasse with Chinese authorities.
But Li Yizhong, minister for industry and information technology, said March 12: “If [Google] takes steps that violate Chinese laws, that would be unfriendly, that would be irresponsible, and they would have to bear the consequences.”
However, the Financial Times said Google’s senior executives are “adamant” about ending the censorship.
Hence the reason for its current deadlock with China: The Communist Chinese government is very serious about its stance on censorship, tightly controlling the information flow in the country.
The New York Times said March 14 that Chinese authorities have warned partners of Google.cn that they must comply with censorship laws even if Google does not and that they must instantiate backup plans in case Google ceases censoring search results.