The odds of Google keeping its Chinese search operation running are starting to seem quite small. The Chinese government has started advising Google’s partners to prepare contingency plans, and one anonymous person who’s supposed to be close to Google even said the company is 99.9 percent likely to shut things down.
The "99.9 percent" comment, which we first mentioned over the weekend, comes courtesy of two Financial Times reporters. One of them, Kathrin Hille, is even located in Beijing. These details lend credence to its authenticity, even though it would of course be nicer to have a quote attributed to some executive or authority.
As for the information related to Google’s partners, the situation’s similar. Sharon LaFraniere spoke to an "industry expert . . . . who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation by the government."
Then LaFraniere reported for the New York Times, "The Chinese government information authorities warned some of Google’s biggest Web partners . . . that they should prepare backup plans in case Google ceases censoring the results of searches on its local Chinese-language search engine . . ."
The only thing that might prevent a showdown at this point is Google’s concern for its employees in China, perhaps along with the company’s desire to keep its advertising and mobile operations alive.