"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," the world's leading search engine posted on its official blog yesterday. "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."
It's not just that Big G is tired of whitewashing what went down at Tiananmen Square 20 years ago to visitors of Google.cn. Last month, Google claims that its intellectual property was stolen within China. Hackers tried -- and in some cases succeeded in -- accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists.
Google isn't blaming the Chinese government directly for the attack on its corporate infrastructure, but it's certainly implied by its threat to bow out of China.
"We should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," is the blog's conclusion.
This may seem like an idle threat, but it's practically a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Google is honest about giving China the unfiltered catalog of cyberspace that its "do no evil" mantra commands, China may block access to Google.cn within the world's most populous nation before Google physically bows out.
The winner for now is Baidu
Google's potential exit may also force Yahoo!
Of course, if Google shuts down, that would also mean China chose to tighten the screws instead of compromising with Google, and that may scare away foreign investors. There's a scary notion for Baidu's premium-priced shares.
In the near term, Baidu wins if Google loses. In the long run, they could all be losers.
What should Google do? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been to China once and relishes admiring its dot-com revolution from afar. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this article and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.