'Gu ge' sings the mainland's praises

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2006, 12:00am


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With legal issues in hand, Google touts China as a new global research centre

Google dispelled any lingering questions over the legal status of its core Chinese operations with a media extravaganza in Beijing yesterday attended by global chairman and chief Eric Schmidt.

However, the search giant is still not allowed to operate some services in the mainland because it does not hold the relevant licences, according to Mr Schmidt.

Earlier this year, mainland media questioned whether Google was legally allowed to run its online search service in China, but the company's vice-president for Greater China, Lee Kai-fu, said yesterday it was operating with the full support of the government.

'Mr Schmidt has had very good communications with various departments and government officials on this trip,' Mr Lee said. 'We have been welcomed by the government and they have been very receptive.'

Yesterday's event was held to unveil Google's Chinese name as it focuses on a market that Mr Schmidt said just surpassed the US in terms of the number of users.

'China will continue to lead in internet users for many, many, many years ... the US will not be catching up,' he said. The new name - pronounced gu ge in pinyin - literally means 'valley song'.

The firm also announced the establishment of its first mainland research and development centre and said it would employ 100 engineers 'by summer' in Beijing's Zhongguancun high-technology zone.

'We expect amazing new products out of our new R&D centre,' Mr Schmidt said. 'Not just for China but for the world.'

He said the company was working on advertising partnerships as permitted by the Chinese government but acknowledged it was still not allowed to offer some services because it had not been granted the necessary licences.

'As we get those licences we will consider offering those services,' he said.

He did not name specific lines of business, but Johnny Chou, Google's president for Greater China sales and business development, told the South China Morning Post that the company did not provide Chinese video services or detailed images of China through its Google Earth online map function.

With US$10 billion in reserves at its disposal, the company has made China a focus of its global expansion plans.

'We decided over the last year to spend much of our resources to solve the world's information problems and No1 on our list is making sure the Chinese end-user has the best search, information and applications,' Mr Schmidt said.

A portion of those resources was spent last year to poach Mr Lee from Microsoft Corp, where he had worked since 1998.

Microsoft took Mr Lee and Google to court for breach of contract soon after, but the matter was settled following five months of legal wrangling.