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Apr 15

Google and China – A Sour History

As you may have known, some Chinese android phones do not have Google Android Market (now known as Google Play) installed in the factory. But most phone sellers now install it on the devices they sell. You may ask “If Google owns Android, why don’t these Android phones have Google search features?” Let’s dig a little bit of history on this problem…

In 2005, Google China was established and they launched a Chinese language search page in 2006. Naturally, the search results generated were subject to censorship by the government. China is a communist regime and free flow of information is restricted for the people living there. The government strictly enforces media censorship and chooses which contents are allowed to be shown to their citizens. Google first tasted the government’s power when YouTube was blocked by China in 2009.

In January 2010, Google announced they were no longer willing to censor their search results because of a previous Chinese hacking incident against them and would pull out of China if needed. Two months later, Google redirected all search queries from Google China to Google Hong Kong, bypassing Chinese regulators. This move allowed uncensored simplified Chinese search results to be shown in the mainland. The incident marked the beginning of Google’s pull out of its search engine from China. However, Google stated that they would continue their services in the country for other Google products such as Gmail and the Android software.

The incident eventually caught the attention of the Chinese government. A few days later, China banned Google searches in mainland China, including all international versions of the search engine. The ban was lifted the next day. But Google’s relationship with China remains sour until today.

In October 2011, the Google Android market was blocked in China. Gmail and other Google programs reportedly became inaccessible and slow due to the fact that China disallowed access. There was no explanation for the blockage.

Despite being banned, Google continued to push into the Chinese market. Statistics show that 60% of smartphones in China are powered by the Android system. However, due to China’s ban, they lack the Google search engine features. The Chinese Android smartphones do not have the Google Android Market preinstalled at the factory.

There you have it, a short history of Google’s not-so-good relationship with China. But don’t worry if you’re planning to buy a Chinese Android phone. Sellers from China now install Google Android Market when you buy their phones as a way to attract more customers. If not, you can install it yourself by downloading the necessary files. You can easily find it on the internet, for free. And this time China has no power to block it!

*UPDATE: Most Chinese Android phones today already have Google Play Store pre-installed. This indicates China has eased up on Google.

4 comments

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  1. nls

    Baidu is the most popular search engine in china, and censorship would not be the only reason why IMO. Because baidu is the most popular on the chinese market, it is often the default search engine on most devices sold here (i happen to live in beijing), not because of censorship. Actually apple even recently added baidu to the default search engines on iOS devices for the chinese market.

    I own a galaxy tab bought in Beijing from a samsung retailer. It came with a local flavor of the android market, and another samsung app market. I tried to set up other versions of the android market and recently google play, but it just keeps telling me i don‘t have any device. I do not think this is a consequence of censorship, but rather a limitation imposed by samsung‘s EOM version of android, taylored for the chinese market, favoring it‘s own apps and commercial partners.

    Anyways, i‘ll just go to my local phone and computer shop to have them set up the latest rooted unrestricted android os, just like most chinese get it. They may even give me a bunch of free cracked apps.

    1. Kris Amora

      Yes, every Chinese phone has Baidu. But my Chinese phone has the international version of Google Play pre-installed. It downloads apps from Google Market without any problems. I guess Google Play compatibility has something to do with manufacturers’ customizations on the application. The phones are originally intended for the Chinese market, so their apps are customized for the Chinese people.

  2. ringo

    i love how the some of these chinese have no problems picking up google’s android but have problems installing google play. total moochers.

    1. Kris Amora

      Now, most Chinese smartphones are already pre-installed with Google Play Store out of the box. A couple of years ago it was totally different.

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