What would Google have to do to return to China?

A rumor recently surfaced on Chinese media that Google plans to re-enter the Chinese market by creating a localized version of its app store, Google Play. Despite the fact that this was an unsubstantiated rumor with no sources on record, a handful of western media also ran news and reported the secondhand rumor as fact. We reached out to Google, but a representative declined to comment on the matter.

Google Play, as with most Google services, is currently blocked in China by the Great Firewall.

As many have said, China is too big to ignore, and Google is probably exploring the possibilities. But there’s no evidence of concrete steps taken by Google to get Google Play back into China. The rumor alleges that Google offered a handful of Chinese phone brands US$1 per handset for each phone pre-installed with Google Play.

Lazy reporting aside, it got us thinking. What would Google have to do to get back into China, anyway? Would it even be worth the effort?

A little bit of history: Google’s many services have been gradually blocked over a period of a few years after Google took a stand against censoring for the China market by shutting down its own Google.cn search engine in 2010. It redirected users to its Hong Kong servers instead. By June 2014, China shut the door on any remaining consumer services belonging to Google, including Gmail, Google Play, and even Google Translate.

Even before Google shuttered Google.cn and its Google.com search was blocked in China, the service wasn’t popular. It was ranked the number three search engine behind Baidu and Tencent’s Soso. Google never had the clout in China that it has in the rest of the world.

So, what would Google have to do to re-enter China? Is it even feasible right now? What compromises would it have to make?

 

Text: TECHINASIA by Paul Bischoff 05-06-2015

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