Google is reportedly holding talks with a number of Chinese firms in order to form local partnerships – a move that will allow it to offer cloud services to the world’s second largest economy.
According to Bloomberg, which cited ‘people familiar with the discussions’, Google has from the start of 2018 being holding talks with Tencent Holdings, Inspur Group and other Chinese companies to offer Google cloud services in the mainland.
If true, this would mark the latest attempt by Google to re-enter the Chinese market. Last week a number of media reports suggested Google is developing a censorship version of its search engine that will blacklist content deemed unacceptable by Chinese authorities.
China is widely considered to have one of the most repressive Internet censorship schemes in the world, and only approved content is allowed behind the so called “Great Firewall” of China for its Internet users.
And restrictions have increased under the reign of Chinese president Xi Jinping who came to power in 2013. In 2015 for example he passed a law establishing “cybersovereignty,” and has made retweets of rumours a crime.
Despite this, Google is known to be keen to return to China.
According to Bloomberg, Google narrowed its partnership candidates to three firms in late March, but it is unclear if the plans will proceed, Bloomberg’s source reportedly said.
The thinking is that by entering local partnership deals, Google could potentially offer its online services (such as Drive and Docs) using the domestic data centres and servers of Chinese providers.
This is a similar to the way other US cloud companies access that market. Apple for example signed a deal with China Telecom in 2014 to use the latter’s Chinese data centres to store iCloud data for its Chinese users.
China of course requires digital information to be stored in the country and Google has no data centres in the mainland, so it needs partnerships with local players.
Google, Inspur and Tencent have reportedly declined to comment on the report.
It comes after Google cloud boss Diane Greene reportedly said last week that she wants the business to “be a global cloud,” but declined to comment specifically about China.
That triggered a huge political row between America and China in 2011, and resulted in Google effectively retreating from the Chinese market after refusing to abide by its censorship rules.
Despite this, Google already has several hundred staff in China, and in December 2017 launched its own artificial intelligence (AI) lab there.
And the US firm is reportedly to be seeking a Shanghai-based business development manager for its cloud business. A job posting apparently lists “experience in, and knowledge of, the Chinese market” as a preferred qualification.
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