Maybe Google won't quit China after all

Google may be in talks with the Chinese government, discussing ways the company can maintain a presence in China.

Despite its recent threats to possibly shut down its China-based operations, Google may in fact keep some of its businesses open there. According to a Fox News report, the search giant is conducting "delicate" talks with the Chinese government. The two sides are discussing ways that Google can maintain its research center, an advertising sales team, and Google's new mobile phone business in China, the report states.

Don't Be Evil

Google created an international incident earlier this month when it announced plans to stop censoring search results in China. It also said it may exit the world's largest Internet market because of cyber-attacks there that appear to target Chinese human-rights activists.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton entered the fray last week when she announced several Department of State initiatives to fight Internet censorship. These included plans to help dissidents in countries with repressive governments circumvent Internet-blocking technologies.

While U.S. officials didn't explicitly laud Google's anti-censorship stance, Clinton's well-timed statements were clearly aimed at China. Beijing officials weren't pleased, obviously, and China's state media have since begun a series of counterattacks that accuse U.S. leaders of spearheading the Google anti-censorship controversy.

Google the Wimp?

If the Fox News report is accurate, Google must tread carefully in its negotiations with Chinese leaders. If it shuts down its search operations in China--ostensibly to protest Beijing's repressive policies--but works a backroom deal to maintain its other businesses there, Google will be seen as hypocritical, and rightfully so. The company has taken its moral stance. Now it must stand by it.

Will China budge on the censorship issue? That's unlikely, given Beijing's tough rhetoric in recent days. It'll be interesting to see how Google negotiates this minefield.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

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