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[Updated] Google Twists in the Wind over Beijing

Google's quixotic and poorly executed attempt to do business in China has suffered another setback

Google's quixotic and poorly executed attempt to do business in China on its terms rather than the Chinese government's has suffered another serious setback.

Google's Internet Content Providers (ICP) license to run google.cn expired on Wednesday and the Communist regime told the company it won't be renewed if Google keeps automatically redirecting google.cn search traffic to its uncensored Chinese language site in Hong Kong.

That's where Google unilaterally retreated to in March after the government called its bluff on leaving the country if search was going to be censored.

Now Google hopes that if it puts up an intermediate "landing page" where users have to click on the message "We have moved to google.com.hk" it won't get kicked out of the largest, fastest-growing Internet market in the world on its ear. If the gambit doesn't fly, well, as its general counsel David Drummond blogged, "without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial web site...so Google would effectively go dark in China."

Google cited the landing page approach in its resubmitted license application. Apparently it has no assurance the device will pass muster and it didn't say anything about clicking the message being penalty-free. At the least it could intimidate or irritate users, cut traffic and see more ad sales, which maybe represent about 2% of Google's total take worldwide, scamper off to Baidu.

As of Thursday there was no word if Beijing is going to buy Google's symbolic accommodation. In the not-looking-good department it was blocking the anticipatory Suggest function of Google Search on and off. Google Maps is also in limbo.

The New York Times suggests that since Chinese President Hu Jintao accepted an invitation from the White House last week to visit the United States the regime will want to avoid any nasty diplomatic blow-back over censorship. When exactly he's coming is unclear. (Can you see Obama buddy Eric Schmidt at the state dinner?)

Google's Hong Kong dodge reportedly only cost it a 5% loss in share to 31% and that - wild guess here -may have irritated the government, which still blocks content it finds objectionable coming out of Google Hong Kong anyhow.

The whole episode was put in train by a hack of Google's corporate system allegedly by Chinese government operatives that reportedly cost the company some code and sought to break into the e-mail of Chinese dissidents using Google Mail.

Google, which doesn't want to self-censor in China, does censor results in countries other than China.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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