China has renewed Google’s license to operate a commercial website there, despite the company’s clashes with Beijing over censorship, Google announced today. To get the renewal, Google had to agree to stop redirecting web surfers from its Chinese page, Google.cn, to its uncensored Hong Kong page. Google complied, after a fashion; Instead of being automatically redirected, visitors now see a link saying that the company has moved to Google.hk.
Without that compromise, “Google would effectively go dark in China,” Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote on the company blog. One Beijing-based media critic says the real reason China renewed the license was to protect the cellphone market, which Google contributes much to. “This has nothing to do with censorship,” he tells the LA Times. “The Chinese government could have been vengeful. But they didn’t want to destroy their investments.”