I shared some thoughts about Google in China a while back, and I still feel the same way. Now that the Chinese government is making itself very clear, and it looks like Google is about to make a move, I’d like to express more succinctly what I think (and hope) Google is going to do:
1. Google.cn and G.cn will “close”. The best result for Google would be that the Google.cn and G.cn domain names will stay around and simple redirect to Google.com.
2. Google will focus government relations on providing faster and more reliable access to Google.com services in China, rather than trying to legally host the services in China (which is what they’ve been trying to do with Google.cn).
This is an acceptable solution for both Google and the Chinese government, as Google gets to follow through on their pledge to no longer censor search results, and the government doesn’t back down on its laws and regulations.
The big question is whether or not Google will be able to be successful with improving access to Google.com services in China. Blocked google services include Spreadsheets, YouTube, and Blogspot. I’m going to go out on a (very long and fragile) limb and say that Google has come to some sort of understanding with the Chinese government to allow improved access to the core Google services in China. YouTube and Blogspot will almost certainly remain blocked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Spreadsheets starts working by the end of the month, and maybe even other stuff will speed up (Google counts in nanoseconds). The government may choose to censor results from the China side (blocking some searches, etc.), but Google’s hands are “clean”.
If Google is successful in this, then the whole ordeal will have had very little effect on Google’s business in China, and may even end up a net positive. Ads from Chinese companies can still be served on Google.com (and have always been served on Google.com), and Google can continue to do R&D for Chinese language products (and whatever else they do) even without Google.cn. The original purpose of Google.cn was to serve a fast and reliable version of Google in China, and if they can achieve this goal without Google.cn, then Google.cn becomes less important.