Back in 2006 when Google entered the Chinese mainland market, I wrote that despite the compromise, it had succeeded in opening the country up in a way that would ultimately erode China's draconian censorship laws.
Four years later that venture has come to an end. Earlier today Google announced it was closing its search engine on the mainland and redirecting all traffic to its Hong Kong site. This is a huge slap in the face to Beijing and the signs are they won't do the smart thing and just let it go. As Rebecca MacKinnon and others have pointed out, by continuing to keep this issue alive Beijing is insuring that censorship remains in the headlines, reminding its population of how much their own government is hiding from them.
Beijing won't be able to tolerate being outfoxed by a bunch of running dog lackeys of capitalist-imperialist oppressors. Ever since the row broke out in January over a series of hacking attacks Google said the Chinese government was behind, things have turned pretty sour very quickly. Google doesn't have much to lose - financially they were a distant second to the domestic market leader, Baidu, and the "stand" they've taken continues to earn kudos from anti-censorship advocates around the world. Here's Sin Chung-kai, a former Hong Kong Democratic Party legislator, supporting the move:
China, on the other hand, is succeeding in making its market look as welcoming as an acid pool to foreign investors, while at the same time providing its citizens with an uncensored view of the contempt it has for any freedom of thought. It'll be interesting to see how Beijing reacts to Google's presence in Hong Kong from now on...