Google’s CEO about the company’s intentions in China, following reports this summer it’s planning a controversial return to the market despite local censorship of Internet services.
Mountain View pulled its search engine out of China back in 2010, under pressure over censored search results. It also cited cyber attacks originating from the country as factoring into its decision to leave.
So Congress wanted to know what exactly had changed that Google is considering reversing that exit, and how doing so wouldn’t contradict its own “core values”.
A none-too-comfortable Pichai stuck closely to a qualified line on the topic, telling Congress Google has no plans “right now” to launch in China, thereby leaving the door open for a launch at a future date.
At the same time he pointed to Google’s “mission”, of making information digitally accessible, to justify what he couched as an exploratory, internal effort at this stage — saying the company mission underpins its ongoing interest in the market.
He made no mention of the 800M+ Chinese Internet users that Google could potentially add to its business if it returned to the market as factoring into his calculations.
“Right now there are no plans for us to launch a search product in China,” Pichai told the committee. “We are, in general, always looking to see how best — it’s part of our core mission and our principles — to try hard to provide users with information.
“We always have evidence, based on every country we’ve operated in, us reaching out and giving users more information has a very positive impact. And we feel that calling but right now there are no plans to launch in China. To the extent that we ever approach a position like that I will be fully transparent, including with policymakers here. And engage and consult widely.”
A little earlier in the session the committee was briefly interrupted by a person trying to enter the room holding a poster depicting the Google logo superimposed on the Chinese flag.