Google Play Store Returning to China Raises Questions

Google Play Store Returning to China Raises Questions
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像
What you need to know

Almost every Android phone and tablet needs to install Google Play, but Chinese authorities have banned it because it is involved in ideological problems and can only be launched on online shops that have passed strict scrutiny.

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Google has left the Chinese market for five years, but sources point out that the company is getting ready to re-apply for a license to the Chinese government and reopen Play Store under legal terms of China. Android Wear smartwatches will also enter China at the same time. But critics question that even though Google is launching a Google Play Store specifically for the Chinese market, the number of Google services banned by the government will make it hard for it to become the top choice for Chinese users.

Google Play is the app store Google launched for Android phones and tablets. It offers more than ten thousand software from over ten categories, including apps, games, movies, books and so on, for users to choose from. Almost every Android phone and tablet needs to install Google Play, but authorities have banned it because it is involved in ideological problems and can only be launched on online shops that have passed strict scrutiny.

Photo Credit: Loïc Le Meur BY CC 2.0

Photo Credit: Loïc Le Meur BY CC 2.0

Because of reviews in China, Google has dropped out from China and transferred its server to Hong Kong, changing its domain name to provide simplified Chinese services for mainland users. But this decreases the market share of Google among the search engines in China from 46.4 percent in the fourth quarter in 2009 to two percent in 2013.

Not a penny of advertising revenue from China

After Google left the Chinese market, the local search engine jumped on the chance to thrive. Chinese search engines such as Baidu has been ranked the second in the world while Sohu ranks fifth. According to eMarketer’s survey this year, the global market has invested up to NT$ 81.59 billion (US$ 2.495 billion) into advertisements on search engines. Google gets half of the advertisements, ranking first in the global market, but not a penny of advertising revenue comes from the Chinese market.

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

The Wall Street Journal and The Information report, Google is discussing with Chinese authorities and some cell phone manufacturers about kicking off Google Play by 2015. Google is said to have promised the authorities to comply with the local laws and will screen out apps that are deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government.

Reports say that the special version of Google Play will only support the recently released Android system on mobile phones and appliances that are registered under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China (MIT). In other words, the phones overseas or foreign phones without the registration of MIT will be unable to download this app.

Another article of POT titled, “Google Ready To Re-enter The Chinese Market? Play Store without GMS Will Be Nothing But An Empty Shell,” says that the Chinese government only allowing Google to re-launch Play Store for users without the Google Service Pack (GMS: Google Mobile Service) will make no difference to the commonly used APK download center. Chinese users of Play Store will not find competitive apps like Gmail, Google Now, Google Voice, Google Map and other apps.

China Times analyzes that the significance of Google returning to China is much bigger than its actual meaning. It will test waters for the outside world and see to what extent China will open up the Internet. For example, Facebook has been preparing to enter the Chinese market for a long time. If the Chinese authorities are really open to the Internet, foreign Internet companies that have been blocked outside the Chinese market will have new access to China.

Translated by Olivia Yang and June
Edited by Olivia Yang

Sources: