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Google boss says something will happen in China 'soon'

Eight weeks and counting

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Google CEO Eric Schmidt has reiterated that the company is currently in negotiations with the Chinese government over its future in the country - despite the Chinese government's claims to the contrary - and he expects some sort of development "soon".

Speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi, the Associated Press reports, Schmidt declined to elaborate on the situation, saying that the company had decided not to publicize the negotiations.

"I can't really say anything other than that we're in active negotiations with the Chinese government, and there is no specific timetable," he said. "Something will happen soon."

The company had no qualms about publicizing its intention to enter talks with the Chinese in mid-January, after alleged Chinese hackers pilfered unspecified intellectual property. At the time, the company said that "over the next few weeks" it would be discussing "the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all."

That was eight weeks ago. In the meantime, Google has continued to filter search results in the country.

Speaking to reporters in Washington last week, Google vice president and deputy general counsel Nicole Wong said much the same thing as Schmidt: that the company had "no timetable" for the talks. Later in the week, Li Yizhong - the minister of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology - told reporters that the ministry was indeed in talks with Google, but later that same day, vice minister Miao Wei claimed that Google hadn't even filed a request for negotiations.

In Abu Dhabi today, Schmidt did say that Google launched negotiations on its own - not in tandem with the US government. "The Google action was not in any way advanced or coordinated with the US government except post-facto," he said. "Google's discussions are with the Chinese government, and they do not involve the US government. The US government's doing its thing unrelated to Google."

After Google outed the attack on its internal systems, Microsoft said the attack had exploited a hole in its Internet Explorer 6 browser - since patched - and according to security researchers, at least 33 other companies were targeted by similar attacks. The Chinese government later denied any role in the attacks.

Reports have indicated that a Chinese university and a Chinese vocational school with "close ties" to the government were involved in the attacks. Representatives of both schools have denied involvement to the Chinese state news agency, and the vocational school denied links to the military. ®

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