Google’s mission is to provide information as freely and fully as possible to all the people of the world. Nevertheless, right now there are 1.2 billion people in China (including 420 million who actively access the web) who don’t have access to Google. The reasons for that, however, are far from simple.
The controversy began all the way back in 2006 when Google first launched their Chinese oriented site. To come to Chinese soil, Google had to agree to censor part of their results in accordance with the mandates of the Chinese government. While Google came under fire from some freedom of speech activists for making secessions to these laws, the company stated they felt some access was better than none and that they would continue to keep a close eye on actions and laws in China.
They didn’t need to be paying all that much attention to find the major issues that would arise in December of 2009, however. Google came under cyber-attack from groups that were trying to access personal account information of Chinese human rights activists both in China itself and in other parts of Europe. While the attacks didn’t succeed, it led Google to the eventual conclusion that their decision to allow for limited results wasn’t a good one. They told Chinese officials that results on Google.cn would no longer be censored, and the Chinese government promptly shut down the site.
Patrick Pichette, Google’s CFO, says that the (less than mutual) decision to leave China — which happened a year ago — was never intended to be permanent. In an interview with The Times, Pichette indicated that the company was pursuing re-entrance into the Chinese search market, partially in hopes of providing more information to the Chinese people than they can currently access. What secessions will be made to the Chinese government to do so, however, have yet to be seen.