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Seven times US companies gave in to pressure from China

Google is reportedly working on a censored search engine for mainland China

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Google might be due for a major comeback in China soon. Leaked documents have revealed it’s planning to launch a custom search app that would filter blacklisted websites and block sensitive queries, according to The Intercept.
A Google spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post that the firm “does not comment on speculation about future plans”.

When Google pulled its search engine from mainland China in 2010, the company says it was due to censorship concerns, so if this is true, it would mark a major turnaround.

But it also wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen American companies caving in to China’s demands to gain access to  the world’s largest internet market.


Even the world’s most valuable company can’t resist Beijing’s demands. Last year, it pulled some VPN apps from the App Store in China -- a move that drew criticism from human rights activists who argued it would make it harder for people to bypass China’s Great Firewall. It also removed the New York Times app, and censors the Taiwan flag emoji -- it simply won’t appear on Apple devices where the location is set to China.

There’s one emoji you can’t see in China


That wasn’t the only issue Apple faced in the country. Earlier this year, Apple moved Chinese iCloud data to a state-run company after new laws were enacted requiring foreign companies to store data locally.

Although Apple has stressed that only it -- not its Chinese partner -- controls the encryption keys, critics are worried it might be coerced to comply with any data request enforced by local courts.


Much like Apple’s iCloud move, the Chinese partner of Amazon’s cloud service reportedly warned users their websites may be shut down… if they don’t stop using software to get around China’s firewall.


Taiwan is a sensitive issue for Beijing, which considers the self-ruling island a breakaway province. It issued an ultimatum that expired last week, asking airlines around the world to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites.

Even though the White House called the demand “Orwellian nonsense”, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines and several other international carriers complied by changing descriptions of Taiwan on their drop-down menus. Taiwan called China’s actions “an affront to rules-based order."

What a drop-down website menu says about China's increasing power


The professional networking site is one of a few Western social sites that aren’t blocked in China. But since 2014, users who’ve posted politically sensitive articles say they received messages telling them those stories won’t appear to users in China.


In 2006, Microsoft shut down the MSN Spaces blog of an outspoken government critic in China. It later adjusted its policy to only block content when legally required to.


China sentenced reporter Shi Tao to jail in 2005 for disclosing state secrets, after Yahoo provided details of his email to authorities. The company said it had to follow Chinese law, though CEO Jerry Yang later apologized to Shi’s family at a US congressional hearing.

How does an Android phone work without Google apps? Look at China

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.