Google may lose its Chinese licence to operate after the Chinese government objected to the company redirecting Google.cn users.
The company has been automatically redirecting users to Google.com.hk, the Hong Kong search engine.
But the Chinese government said this is unacceptable, and told Google it would not renew its Internet Content Provider (ICP) license if it continued. The licence is up for renewal on June 30, and the company would be shut out from one of the biggest web markets in the world if it doesn't get renewed.
Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said in a blog post: "Without an ICP license, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn - so Google would effectively go dark in China."
Google has instead begun to direct a small number of Google.cn users to a landing page on Google.cn that links to the Hong Kong page. Over the next few days all users will be redirected to the same landing page.
"This approach ensures we stay true to our commitment not to censor our results on Google.cn and gives users access to all of our services from one page," David Drummond said.
Google's dispute with China started in January when it announced it was no longer willing to censor results on Google.cn. The situation has been stuck since then with neither side making any announcements.
Google says it hopes its new method of redirecting users to a landing page will mean it gets its licence granted.
"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."