By Jason Theodorou

Google boss Eric Schmidt has said he expects the search giant to be given a new license to operate in China, allowing the company to tap in to the world's biggest internet market. The company's contract is up for renewal in June, and Beijing has recently threatened to close its access to the country.

'We would expect we would get the necessary operating license', Mr. Schmidt told reporters at a conference in Sun Valley. He said that he fully expected his contract to be renewed, but cautioned that '[Google's] operations in China are completely at the discretion of the Chinese government'.

A dispute arose between China and Google when the search engine began redirecting Chinese users to its unfiltered search site in Hong Kong, in protect at China's strict censorship laws. Google has since said that it would stop automatically redirecting users, instead sending them to a 'landing page' where users can choose whether to go to the Hong Kong site.

Google objected to censorship of its China site, and said in January that it was prepared to withdraw from the market. Wang Chen, head of China's Information Office at the State Council, said last month 'We've long said that to develop in China, you must abide by Chinese laws'.

Pulling out of the market in China would be damaging to Google's long term growth prospects.

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