Following the revelation last week that Google had developed a censored mobile search app for the Chinese market, there was immediate speculation about the company making a move to get the desktop site unblocked as well. But the rumors that Google was preparing to launch the app as soon as within six months were quickly tamped down by sources who told The New York Times this was no done deal.
Adding to questions hanging over a potential re-entry into the market was the failed bid by Facebook to open a modest research and development operation. The social media giant, which is also blocked in mainland China, had been granted fleeting approval after CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent years courting Chinese officials, only to get the ax the next day.
On Monday, Chinese state media weighed in on the prospects of Google’s return, extending open arms – with one caveat. The search engine will have to comply with the same Chinese laws that it voiced strident opposition to ten years ago.
“All foreign internet companies in China should respect China’s internet management,” the People’s Daily wrote in a social media post.
While there remain sticking points to Google making a big push in China, not the least of which is the backlash among the company’s employees, the news indicates that Beijing might see a censored Google in China as a win.
At the same time, China’s dominant search engine, Baidu, does not appear to be worried.
“Baidu will win again,” the company’s CEO Robin Li said on a private social media account, as reported by Reuters.
“Chinese companies today have plenty of ability and confidence” to compete globally, he added.
Li has good reason to be confident. An entire generation in China has grown up with no exposure to Google, or Facebook or Twitter for that matter, as The New York Times noted on Monday.
“Mr Wei is typical of Chinese teenagers in another way, too,” the article wrote of an 18-year-old interviewee. “He has never heard of Google or Twitter. He once heard of Facebook, though. It is ‘maybe like Baidu?’ he asked one recent afternoon, referring to China’s dominant search engine.”