Google welcome in China if it obeys laws, state media say

Tech leaders speak at Noah Technology Conference. (Bloomberg pic)

BEIJING: Google, the world’s biggest search engine, is welcome to return to China as long as it complies with the nation’s laws and right to control the internet within its borders, the People’s Daily said.

The opinion piece in the state-run newspaper said the Alphabet Inc. unit’s 2010 withdrawal from China, when it complained about hacking and censorship, was a mistake that caused it to miss out on opportunities. It also made Google a politicized brand, a “tragedy” for the company, the newspaper said. The column, however, was later removed from both the People’s Daily website as well as its Facebook and Twitter feeds without explanation.

Google is looking at ways to re-enter China, home to the biggest pool of internet users, through a search app that complies with Chinese censorship as well as partnerships with local companies, people familiar with the matter have said. After withdrawing, most of its services were blocked in the country. News of a potential return have been met with resistance from employees and criticism from human rights advocates and lawmakers.

“The decision to exit the Chinese market was a huge blunder, which made the company miss golden chances in the mainland’s internet development,” the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party said. “Google is welcome to return to the mainland, but it’s a prerequisite that it must comply with the requirements of the law.”

The commentary reflects China’s long-held line that all foreign companies wishing to offer services in the country must abide by local standards. Chinese tech giants are constantly censored with posts deemed harmful to social order quickly erased from public view. These have run the gamut from news of protests to the cartoon character Winnie the Pooh after it was compared to China’s President Xi Jinping. Facebook and Twitter remain blocked as well.