The State of Google in China Part One: What does it mean for us?

*UPDATE: As of today, March 25 at 1:50PM Beijing time, I can get to Google.com. I did initially get redirected to HK, but after clicking on "Go to Google.com" I was able to reach it. 

Google.com is no longer accessible in mainland China. While it's no suprise that Google.cn is no longer available, the US version of the page can not be reached without a proxy server. The surprise for me is that it appears that Google- not China- has made the page inaccessible.

Both Google.com and Google.cn redirect to Google.com.hk from within mainland China. Outside of the mainland, Google.com is unaffected, but Google.cn still redirects to Hong Kong. This is particularly annoying and a bit perplexing- Why have Google made this decision? If, in fact China made the decision, why did they? 

I understand why Google.cn and G.cn have been routed to HK- it's a nice little loophole in created by the "One Country, Two Systems" policy that allows Hong Kong to retain relatively free.  But why redirect .com?

There are three questions I have about this:

  1. Why isn't the media and the blogosphere in general talking about the Google.com redirect?
  2. Why are the other English-language versions of Google (UK, Australia, even Canada) available?
  3. When will we have access to Google.com again?

As an aside, Google.nl, Google.de, Google.es and so on - are all available as well. 

So far, this doesn't mean much for Expats or Chinese within the mainland. Whether or not Google censors results, Chinese ISPs do, and have since well before Google was officially in China. In terms of SEO, it only means that targeting Hong Kong may have a slight positive impact on your page rank. Most English speakers using Google will use Google HK, and the relatively few Chinese users who stick to Google will as well.

Will it have a deeper impact? I certainly hope not. While the Chinese government have had harsh words for Google, they haven't announced any plans to entirely block them. I have both doubts and fears about it, and being an SEO professional who really likes Google, I'm going to be staying on top of it and updating with Part 2 whenever whatever happens happens.

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