BEIJING: Google, the online search giant, is planning to change the way Chinese consumers access its service, a move seen as a bid to improve relations with the authorities in the country.
Earlier this year, the US multinational decided to ignore the Chinese's government censorship regulations, prompting the use of filters to block sensitive pages.
Since then, all visitors to Google.cn, which is based in mainland China, have been automatically redirected to a Hong Kong-based site – Google.com.hk – which doesn't restrict search results.
Chinese officials have since told the company that this practice is unacceptable, and Google has now announced that it will give netizens the choice of which site they view.
This strategy was argued to at least partially be motivated by a formal review through which Google's licence to operate in China could be revoked.
"This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self-censor and, we believe, with local law," wrote David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, on a corporate blog.
"We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn."
If Google is refused permission to trade in China, it will essentially be denied the chance to reach the world's largest internet population of more than 400 million people.
Google's market share in the country declined in the first quarter of 2010, with the local rival Baidu benefiting as a result.
At the same time, Google's search revenue dropped from 35.6% to 31%, according to Analysys International, the research firm.
Most observers believe that Google's Chinese business is currently very small, accounting for less than 2% of its net revenue.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff