Miao also said Google had never filed a report over alleged cyber attacks or any complaints about filtering of search results, as internet companies operating in China are required to do.

'No timetable'

Speaking in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Schmidt declined to provide specifics on the claimed talks with Chinese officials or predict how long the discussions would last, saying that the company has decided not to publicise details.

"I can't really say anything other than that we're in active negotiations with the Chinese government"

Eric Schmidt,
Google CEO

"I can't really say anything other than that we're in active negotiations with the Chinese government, and there is no specific timetable," he said.

Earlier this year, in a surprise about-turn, Google announced it would no longer filter search results on its Chinese search engine and said it was prepared to shut down its China operations entirely if authorities in Beijing refused to accept that.

The announcement came after Google uncovered what it said were a series of sophisticated cyber attacks aimed at its source code and email accounts used by Chinese human rights activists.

However, the company has continued to filter results on Google.cn pending the outcome of discussions with Chinese authorities.

It has also posted recruitment ads for dozens of jobs at its China offices, despite its warning that it may close its operations in China entirely if it is unable to reach agreement with the government.

'Firm decision'

Schmidt's comments came as another senior Google executive told a US congressional committee in Washington that the US company stood by its commitment to stop censoring searches and was prepared, if necessary, to quit China.

"Google is firm in its decision that it will stop censoring our search results for China," Nicole Wong, a Google vice-president and deputy general counsel, told the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

"If the option is that we'll shutter our .cn operation and leave the country, we are prepared to do that."

Commenting on Wong's testimony, Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican Representative, welcomed Google's commitment to stop censoring search results in China but noted the company had yet to follow up its intentions with action.

"Unfortunately, Google has yet to follow through on and to stop self-censoring," he said.

"Our praise shouldn't be for an intent, our praise should be for accomplishing what has been set out."