Google's negotiations with the Chinese government over censorship and Internet search should produce a resolution "soon," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Wednesday.
Schmidt, speaking at a media conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, declined to offer specifics on the status of those negotiations but said although "there is no specific time table" he expects a decision to happen soon, according to reports from the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. Google prompted a showdown with the government in January when it declared that it was no longer willing to offer a censored search engine in China and would consider pulling out of the country unless China's censorship laws changed.
Since then, Google and China have said very little about the progress of those discussions. The ultimatum was prompted by a cyberattack against Google and other U.S. companies that security experts believe was propagated by hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government.
That attack also prompted the U.S. government to outline a new policy supporting the notion of "Internet freedom" in countries around the world, although Schmidt said Google and the U.S. government are holding separate discussions with the Chinese government on their respective issues.
The stakes are high for Google, which is contemplating an exit from the largest--and growing--Internet market in the world. It also risks backlash from privacy and human rights supporters who flocked to its defense in January should the company back down from its statements regarding censorship and search.