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Last updated: July 9, 2010 1:29 pm

A history of Google in China

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With the news that Google has closed its China-based search service and begun redirecting web searchers to an uncensored portal in Hong Kong, the Financial Times looks back at the company’s time in the country, plotted against its share of the Chinese online advertising market.

1999 – Google is founded. One of its corporate mantras is: “Don’t Be Evil”

2000 – Google begins offering a Chinese-language version of But the website, which cannot be accessed about 10 per cent of the time, is slow and unreliable, apparently because of the extensive filtering performed by China’s licensed internet service providers

Autumn 2002 – becomes completely unavailable in China. Access is largely restored within about two weeks. The company claims it has stood by its principles and has not subjected itself to Chinese laws and regulations

December 2003 – is again blocked in China

July 2005 – Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft executive, joins Google as a global vice-president in charge of China, and announces a plan to establish a research centre in China

January 2006 – is launched amid widespread criticism. Google agrees to block certain websites in return for being able to run a local Chinese service. It promises to tell Chinese users when search results are censored and not to maintain any services that involve personal or confidential data, such as Gmail or Blogger, on the mainland. The unfiltered Chinese-language remains available

June 2006 – is again blocked in China while continues to work

April 2007 – Eric Schmidt, chief executive, gives an upbeat assessment of Google’s outlook in China, saying that that the company is on track to lead the country’s internet market in spite of challenges including censorship issues and fierce competition from, its larger home-grown rival

September 2007 – finally receives a licence from the Chinese government that officially allows it to operate its website in China – more than 18 months after it set up

February 2008 – Guo Quan, a Chinese human rights activist, vows to sue Yahoo and Google for excising his name from its local search results. Mr Guo writes that “to make money, Google has become a servile Pekinese dog wagging its tail at the heels of the Chinese Communists”. Guo is sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2009

October 2008 – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo sign a set of voluntary guidelines designed to reduce the risk that their actions will lead to human rights abuses in China and other countries. The document, written together with human rights advocates, calls for companies to comply with censorship only when they receive a formal legal request to do so

December 2008 – Beijing widens a media campaign against Baidu, China’s biggest internet search engine, to target the entire industry. Companies, including Google, are criticised for running advertisements from non-licensed medical websites. The move threatens to throw the Chinese online ad market into disarray

January 2009 – Chinese regulators criticise Google for making pornography available through its search engine

March 2009 – Google launches a free music download service in China

April 2009 – Chinese regulators repeat their criticism of Google over pornographic content

June 2009 – Chinese regulators announce that they are “punishing” Google China for failing to remove pornographic content from its search results. The punishment includes a suspension of its ability to search foreign websites and its associative-word search function – a move that drives Google users away to rival Baidu

June 2009 – Google’s global website is blocked in China for the first time in years after the company appears to resist the order to suspend some functions. Official media accuse Google of allowing pornographic content

June 24 2009 – No access to, Gmail for hours

August 2009 – China Mobile prepares to launch customised smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system, putting the search company head-to-head with Apple in China

September 2009 – Kai-Fu Lee quits following a controversial four-year tenure that has seen the company use a censored version of its search engine to gain a foothold in the world’s most populous internet market

October 2009 – A Chinese copyrights group demands talks with Google over compensation for Chinese authors who have had their books scanned into the company’s electronic library

December 2009 – Chinese state media again accuse Google of allowing pornographic content in its search results

December 2009 – A Chinese court agrees to hear a case brought by Mian Mian, a novelist, against Google for scanning her works, posing a fresh challenge to the company’s digital books project

January 2010 – Google says it will end censorship of its search service in China and is prepared to pull out of the market

January 2010 – Eric Schmidt, chief executive, says Google aims to stay in China even if it was forced to close down its local search services as the company has a range of other business opportunities on the mainland

January 2010 – Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, calls on Beijing to carry out a “thorough” and “transparent” investigation into the cyberattacks that Google said were triggered by its announcement to stop censorship in China

March 2010 – Google is “99.9 per cent” certain to go ahead with plans for the closure of its Chinese search engine, according to a person close to the company. China, meanwhile, says it is not prepared to compromise on internet censorship to stop Google leaving

March 2010 – Google announces it has stopped censoring its search services on its local Chinese service after talks with Chinese authorities over whether it could continue to operate an uncensored service from inside the country failed. All search requests on are now being redirected to its Hong Kong arm

June 2010 – Google says it is making a final attempt to maintain a presence in China, after the government threatens to shut it down by the end of June. The internet group will place a voluntary link to its Hong Kong site on the home page, rather than automatically redirecting users, in a bid to appease the authorities ahead of a licence renewal due at the end of the month

July 2010 – The Chinese government renews Google’s licence to operate in the world’s largest internet market, appearing to accept a compromise offered by the US search engine over internet censorship Google initially redirected all its traffic from China to a Hong Kong based site outside the reach of censors.

It then stopped the automatic redirect and created a static “landing page” giving Chinese users the option of clicking on a link to the uncensored Hong Kong site

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