BEIJING (AP) - Google on Friday said Beijing has renewed the license it needs to continue operating a website in China, securing the search giant’s foothold in the world’s biggest Internet market despite tensions over censorship.
The renewal of the license to provide Internet content was in doubt due to the rocky relations between Google and Chinese authorities over hacking of Gmail accounts and censorship of Google search results. Google last week stopped automatically redirecting users in China to its uncensored Hong Kong site after Beijing threatened to withdraw its license.
“We are very pleased that the government has renewed our … license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China,” said an e-mailed statement by Google’s top lawyer, David Drummond.
Losing the Chinese license would have been a significant setback for Google, even though China will only account for a fraction of the company’s projected $28 billion in revenue this year. China already has nearly 400 million Web surfers, making it the world’s biggest Internet market, and usage is expected to rise for years to come. For Beijing, the renewal partly defuses a high-profile dispute that has added to the perception of China as becoming less welcoming to foreign businesses.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Thursday he expected Beijing to renew the license.
A company spokeswoman Courtney Hohne said on Friday she could give no further details.
“In the coming days, we will clarify what products we’ll offer locally through google.cn,” she said, referring to company’s Chinese site.
Google closed its China search engine in March but has wanted to keep a website that offers music and other services. Users had been automatically redirected to Google’s uncensored Hong Kong site, but the company stopped that last week after Chinese officials warned the move could mean losing its license.
Google’s relations with Beijing have been rocky since the U.S. search giant said it no longer wanted to cooperate with government Internet censorship. The announcement was prompted by cyber attacks the company traced to China.
The conflict has posed a balancing act for Google. The company wants to uphold the principle of free access to information while also keeping a foothold in the Chinese market.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., does not hold the kind of dominant position in the Chinese search market that it does in the U.S. The search engine operated by Chinese competitor Baidu Inc. has about 60 percent of the market to Google’s 30 percent.
In a letter requesting Google’s license renewal, the company’s local partner, Guxiang Information Technology Co. Ltd., pledged to “abide by the Chinese law” and “provide no lawbreaking contents,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.