Google’s China exodus

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Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has shut down its Translate app for China, ending one of the few remaining products the tech giant still operates in the world’s second-largest economy. Mainland Chinese users are now shown a static image of a generic Google search bar, as well as a link to the company’s Hong Kong-based domain, which is blocked for mainland Chinese users. The abrupt suspension adds even more bricks to China’s Great Firewall and disrupted some Chinese apps that relied on Google for translation.

Google first entered the Chinese market in 2006 with a version of its search engine that was subject to government censorship. The engine was pulled in 2010 following state-sponsored hacks and government-ordered blocks in response to YouTube clips showing Chinese security forces clashing with Tibetans. In 2018, Google briefly entertained the idea of relaunching Google Search in China as part of a project code-named Dragonfly – which would have censored results and location data – but the plan was abandoned following an uproar at the company and backlash from politicians.

“We are discontinuing Google Translate in mainland China due to low usage,” Google said in a statement, though recent figures may show otherwise. According to web analytics platform Similarweb, the page notched 53.5M visits from desktop and mobile users combined in August, while growing at a 30% pace over each of the previous two months.

Go deeper: Many U.S. businesses have shuttered their services in China over the past year, as they get caught in the middle of tech tensions between Washington and Beijing. Companies like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB) have closed their local operations, while others like LinkedIn (NASDAQ:MSFT) have sought to comply with new internet regulations by removing the social feed from its China platform. Domestic competitors, such as Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Tencent (OTCPK:TCEHY), have benefited in the wake of their exits, and have dominated the Chinese internet landscape from search and translation to social media and gaming.