Google and China play hard-ball

Google is preparing to leave China over its hacking and censorship row with the Chinese government, if you believe recent reports.

The company has detailed mothballing plans for its Chinese business and is 99.9% certain to use them, according to the Financial Times, quoting an unidentified source. You don't need to be a Google-level boffin to know that this gives the company only a one in a thousand chance of staying.

The search giant has been at odds with China since its 2006 entry to the market, which did not sit well with advocates of its informal “Don't be evil” policy. While Google complies with local censorship laws, its compromise has been to notify users that their search results are being censored.

In January, Google threatened to stop censoring results on google.cn, having discovered that Gmail accounts belonging to human rights activists had been routinely hacked. While Google did not point fingers, it was widely inferred that it believes that the Chinese government was complicit.

The company at the time said it was “no longer willing to continue censoring our results” and would “shut down” Google.cn if it could not come to an agreement with the government.

According to the FT, the two parties are now at an impasse, and Google's main concern is how to pull out of the country without jeopardising the rights of its locally hired employees.