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Face-saving compromise lets China, Google do business

July 15, 2010

AFP
July 10, 2010

WASHINGTON -- China's renewal of Google's
Internet license reflects a face-saving
compromise between a political powerhouse and a
technology titan who both sought to avoid a painful break-up, analysts said.

"It's not a complete surprise because I think the
politics were that the Chinese wanted to avoid a
big fight," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity
expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"With (Chinese President) Hu Jintao coming to
Washington it was not the best time to reshape
the agenda of the meeting by messing with Google," Lewis told AFP.

He noted that China's decision to renew Google's
Internet Content Provider license came after the
company stopped automatically redirecting Chinese
Web surfers to Google's uncensored search engine in Hong Kong.

Instead, Chinese visitors to Google's search
engine in China, Google.cn, must now click on a
link to land on the Hong Kong site.

"It's good sometimes to do face-saving things,"
Lewis said. "It gave everyone a nice way to move
along for the next few months. It's good for Google as well as for China."

Lewis added, however, that the Chinese
authorities are "still not happy" with Google
over its decision to stop censoring Web search
results to protest cyberattacks last year that
the California company said came from China.

"I think they'll still look for things they can do to Google," he said.

While Google and China may have reached a
temporary truce, Lewis said the Chinese goverment has a "long-term problem."

"They like technology, they like access to the
global information infrastructure but they don't
like the political implications," he said.

Matthew Ingram of technology blog GigaOm.com said
Google will have problems of its own as it "tries
to maintain a foothold in the country without
bowing completely to the government's desire for control.

"(Google) has to walk a tightrope in order to
remain on the government's good side, while still
maintaining some semblance of ethical principles
by not caving in to the authorities," he wrote.

Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in
China, said "China's approval of Google's license
reflects that despite all the recent rhetoric, China wants Google to stay."

"The significance may be that making a principled
stand to do business in a way that that does not
violate fundamental rights... will not
automatically get you kicked out of China as many
businesses fear," Hom told AFP.

She said, however, that for China to provide a
truly hospitable climate for foreign businesses,
"it will take more than granting one company one license."

The US State Department, which has made Internet
freedom a top priority, had an unusually muted
reaction to China's decision to allow Google to remain in the country.

"It's a matter between Google and the Chinese
government," State Department spokesman Mark
Toner said in response to a question from reporters.

Investors on Wall Street were a bit more
enthusiastic about the news that Google could
stay in the world's largest Internet market for at least another year.

Google shares gained 2.39 percent on Friday to
close at 467.49 dollars. Shares in Baidu, China's
top search engine, lost 1.77 percent meanwhile to close at 71.15 dollars.
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