After parting ways with The People's Republic Of China a few years back, Google saw their services replaced by local elements such as Baidu and WeChat, even as their market share grew globally, for the most part. Although they recently began an initiative to get back in the good graces of the most populous nation in the world, their services are still mostly blocked by China's Golden Shield Project, also known as the Great Firewall. This means that any IP address in mainland China cannot access Google's services without going through a virtual private network. Between the hours of 11:30 PM Sunday night and 1:15 AM, Chinese local time, Google's newest servers' IP addresses weren't registered to the Great Firewall's databases. This meant that, for just over an hour and a half, everybody in China was able to access Google.
The Great Firewall has had occasional hiccups in the past, with both Facebook and Twitter slipping through at times. On this occasion, of course, only Google was accessible, since only Google added new IP addresses to their server list. Specifically, the Great Firewall failed to catch new IP addresses for Google's search service, though their other services remained blocked. For a brief period, some of the populace actually believed that Google had been voluntarily unblocked. According to a local newspaper, the South China Morning Post, many people believed that this meant that free speech had returned to mainland China, even taking to social networks such as Sina Weibo to declare such.
China has made their stance on United States-based web services quite clear, keeping their citizens from accessing a great many popular services that came from the States. Although the Great Firewall is a major factor in the virtual lives of all Chinese citizens, the system is not entirely perfect. Google's rather innocuous actions on Sunday night being enough to temporarily subvert the system assert as much, although it speaks to the dedication of the powers that be that the hole was patched up in less than two hours' time. Google's brief return to the People's Republic of China, in the end, didn't mean much and, like prior glitches in the Great Firewall, is unlikely to result in any significant changes.