Google is “99.9% certain” it will shutter it China search business after talks with Chinese authorities on censorship have failed to make progress.
The search firm has drawn up detailed plans for the closure of its search engine and was likely to make a decision very soon, FT.com reported Saturday, quoting a source “familiar with the company’s thinking.”
The source said Google’s senior executives were “adamant” about ending censorship of the google.cn search engine and had ruled out the possibility of handing majority control over to a local player.
The news comes as China issued its strongest warning yet against Google lifting the filtering on its China search results.
Google “will bear the consequences” if it stops censoring search results, MIIT chief Li Yizhong said at a press conference on Friday, the semi-official China Daily reported.
“If you don't respect Chinese laws, you are unfriendly and irresponsible, and you will bear the consequences,” he said.
Google has about 36% of China's search market by revenue, according to Beijing research firm Analysys International, compared to the 58% of market leader Baidu.
While a decision could be made very soon, Google is likely to take some time to complete its exit as it takes steps to protect local employees from retaliation by authorities, the FT said.
Google is hoping to keep its other China operations, such as its Beijing R&D center and a sales force that sells advertising on the Chinese-language Google.com search service, although a likely backlash from Chinese authorities could make it impossible.
Google announced two months ago that it was considering shutting down its China website because of censorship and following a massive cyber-attack that it said had originated in China.
It is lobbying the US government to make a WTO complaint against China over censorship as an unfair trade barrier.