If I'd been forced to wager, I admit that a week ago I'd have bet China wasn't going to swallow Google's scheme to offer unrestricted search inside China by directing Chinese people to the Hong Kong version of Google. I'd have lost, it seems. Well worth the hypothetical money. We don't know much yet, but do we know from a one-line update slipped onto the Google corporate blog that the Chinese government has approved the Internet Content Provider license that Google needs under Chinese law to operate in the country:
We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China.
Google put China on a fence here and, as diplomatically as possible, forced the country to hop to one side or the other. China chose, it seems, to look past the fact that Google's new approach may violate the spirit of China's censorship laws to say that the company is generally operating within acceptable bounds. That's a major victory for Google, of course. They get to keep doing business in China, which is not only a score for the operational side but also an affirmation of the company's self-image as a champion of information. But it also should work out well for the Chinese people. The controversy over Google Search got most of the attention here. But this arrangement also means that they keep access to the full panoply of free services and products -- YouTube, Docs, Blogger, Groups, News -- that the company offers these days.
More from James Fallows, who concurs that it's "very good news all around."
(Photo credit: Guo Qi)