"May you live in interesting times."
-- Supposed Chinese curse

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) certainly lives in all the wrong kinds of interesting times -- at least in the Far East. After thumbing its nose at Chinese censorship this winter, Google is now at risk to lose its online business license in China outright. So what does Big G do? Blow a raspberry at the Chinese government, point, and laugh. Uh-oh.

This time, Chinese authorities have threatened to shut down Google's operations in the country unless the company stops redirecting searches to the unfiltered Google Hong Kong site. In response, Google has published a new landing page with a censored Chinese search box on it, followed by a prominent link directly to the untainted Hong Kong service.

The idea, according to Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, is to be "is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn."

I applaud Google's audacity, because this may be the company's only shot at remaining as a business entity in China without entirely shutting down access to unfiltered search results. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) have been far more eager to work with the local authorities than Google, as both Bing and Yahoo Search are serving up Chinese search results without drawing the ire of the government. Meanwhile, Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) is happy to take advantage of the market chaos and gain share on its Western rivals -- all filtered, all the time, of course. In this sense, I suppose Google is doing its best to provide a public service.

But if the landing-page solution is a reasonable compromise, then why didn't Google go there in the first place? By pulling the redirection stunt, Google may have doomed even this seemingly acceptable service to instant failure. How hard can it be for an enraged regulatory body to find some excuse for cutting Google's license?

Unless the renewal application is approved, Google's Chinese business license will expire today. There are reports already that Google’s "Suggest" feature is being blocked, but other parts of Google search are working. We'll see very soon whether or not this give-and-take results in a one-way ticket out of the Middle Kingdom. But I think Google blew its chances months ago.

Will Google stay in China or scurry home, defeated? Discuss in the comments box below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.