Google CEO bails on China bluff?

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(SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)--Google Inc. (GOOG) Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said his company remains "quite committed" to remaining in China, but will in a "reasonably short time" make changes to its now-censored search results.

"We wish to remain in China. We like the Chinese people and our Chinese employees. We like the business opportunities there and we'd like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have, but we remain quite committed to being there," he said on Thursday.

Schmidt said the company was "in conversation" with government authorities and that Google's business in China today remains unchanged.

"We continue to follow their laws, we continue to offer censored results, but at a reasonably short time from now we will be making some changes there," he said during a conference call with analysts after the Mountain View, Calif.-based company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results.

It looks increasingly like the Google threat to pull out of China or stop censoring results was nothing more than a bluff: one they were destined to lose. The Chinese government isn't known for caving to public opinion or threats that don't have a very big stick in the background. Frankly, it seems naive for Google to think it could change that stance.

If Google will "continue to follow their laws" and "continue to offer censored results", that seems like a whole like folding when your bluff is called.

As to Google's line in the sand? In a "reasonably short time from now" they will "be making some changes there". That's a loophole wide enough to swallow the great wall.

Google: changing the menu on the cafeteria wall isn't the same as making good on your threat "to shut down, and potentially our offices in China".