The relationship between Google and China is not the strongest and the latest example of this is that the company decided to close Translate in that country, due to the low popularity of the platform and despite the fact that it is one of its latest products in the region.
“We have discontinued Google Translate in mainland China due to low usage,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. Now, the service’s web page shows a photo of a search bar that redirects to the Hong Kong translation site, which cannot be accessed from other areas.
The translation service had been available to all users since 2017 through a website as well as a smartphone app. However, this decision marks the departure of one more service for the company and joins the list where Maps, Gmail and the search engine are already found.
The tense relationship between Google and China
Google currently has a limited presence in China. While some of its hardware, including its smartphones, are made in China, The New York Times reported last month that a good chunk of Pixel phone production has moved to Vietnam.
The change is due to two main elements. The first is growing concerns around geopolitical tensions and the second is supply chain disruptions that have greatly impacted the Chinese market.
However, this story of misunderstandings did not begin a few months ago, but for more than a decade. In 2010, the tech giant decided to withdraw its search engine citing strict government censorship of online services.
This decision allowed the growth of local competitors, such as Baidu, which is the second most used search engine worldwide (because it monopolizes the Chinese market of more than 1,000 million users), and WeChat, an app owned by Tencent that It has multiple functions, from social network to payment tool.
In 2018, the company explored the possibility of re-entering its search engine in China, but discarded the project, due to the rejection that politicians and businessmen showed towards such a decision.
In fact, the following year, investor Petar Rhiel accused the company of working with the Chinese army and asked the United States government, then led by Donald Trum, to investigate the company.
However, the current time is not ideal for US tech companies in China, with Washington concerned about China’s growing potential in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and semiconductors.
In August, for example, the US government banned chipmaker Nvidia from selling specific components to China, arguing that this would reduce the risk that its products would be used by the Chinese military.