A Google spokeswoman told Business Insider: "We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com".
Andy Tian, a tech executive who formerly led mobile strategy and partnerships for Google in China, said the Chinese tech companies that now dominate search can't compete with Google's product.
Google is working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and allow it to reenter China after exiting eight years ago due to censorship and hacking, according to USA media reports. Google has also undergone changes as a company, with its new CEO Pichai leading the charge to once again get a foothold in the country.
A day after news leaked that a secret, censored version of Google's search engine for Android phones was under development for the Chinese market, multiple reports have cast doubt on the likelihood of the product ever being released.
Google is not commenting on "speculation about future plans". If Google launches a search service in China, it's on the government's terms. Pichai has publicly stated he was eager for Google to start operating in China. What is to stop Facebook and Twitter to approach the Chinese government again, and agreeing to send an error message every time one tries to tweet about, or write a post about an activist like Liu Xiaobo?
Google's main search platform has been blocked in China since 2010, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into China.
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We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement... Google has demonstrated the app to officials from the Chinese government, according to The Intercept and the Times. In March 2010, the Mountain View-based company stopped censoring materials in China, by redirecting its Chinese page to the Hong Kong domain which returned uncensored results.
According to a Google employee who worked on Dragonfly and talked to the Intercept, information about the project was restricted to a "few hundred" employees. There are a lot of countries that would gladly pay a pretty penny to censor the internet in their region.
This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom.
Cotton has been a critic of Google's moves involving China. It is unclear from the documents seen by The Intercept whether this first foray into heavily censored searching - via the mobile app - will be followed by a decision to censor the website itself. "It will set a awful precedent for many other companies who are still trying to do business in China while maintaining the principles of not succumbing to China's censorship".
Google did operate in the country from 2006 to 2010, when it also agreed to the local censorship laws, facing harsh criticism from USA officials.
And while Google is a household brand in much of the world, its name may draw blank stares from China's younger generation who are growing up in the post-Google Chinese internet.