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Google’s Shenzhen office another step in its bid to extend services in China
Google announced in December 2017 that it would open a new artificial intelligence research centre in Beijing, tapping China's talent pool in the promising technology despite the US search giant's exclusion from the country's internet. Photo: AFP
Eight years after pulling many of its services out of China, Google has now set up a new office in the city of Shenzhen which borders Hong Kong and is home to Chinese tech giants like Tencent, Huawei and ZTE, according to TechCrunch. 
Instead of a “fully-blown” Google campus, the company has taken up space within a “serviced office” starting this week, reported Tech Crunch on Wednesday. 
A spokesperson of Google confirmed to the media saying that Google “has many important clients and partners in Shenzhen,” and Google is “setting up this e-suite office to be able to communicate and work with them better.”
It is also reported that Google’s China-based sales team, its hardware team and those in logistics, sourcing, and supply are most likely to make use of it.
Google’s move into Shenzhen comes one month after the company announced plans to open its first AI lab in Beijing. 
According to Chinese media, the company has leased a 6,000-square meter office with space for more than 300 workers in Beijing. The center will be headed by Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist of AI and machine learning at Google Cloud, and Jia Li, head of research and development at Google Cloud AI.
“I believe AI and its benefits have no borders. Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, it has the potential to make everyone’s life better. As an AI first company, this is an important part of our collective mission. And we want to work with the best AI talent, wherever that talent is, to achieve it,” Fei-Fei Li wrote in a blog post announcing plans for the China lab.
“Besides publishing its own work, the Google AI China Center will also support the AI research community by funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops, and working closely with the vibrant Chinese AI research community,” Li added.
In addition, in early December 2017, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, together with Apple’s Tim Cook, made their first appearance at China’s World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, organized by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the top regulator of China’s Internet. 
According to the South China Morning Post, Pichai said in a panel discussion of the conference that “a lot of work Google does is to help Chinese companies. Many small and medium-sized businesses in China take advantage of Google to get their products to many other countries outside of China.”
On Monday, a rumor saying that Google “has set up a China-specific version of the Google Maps website” circulated on China’s social network which delighted Chinese netizens, with many speculating if it was a sign that the company would come back to China soon. The company later denied the rumor, saying that it has made “no changes” to its mapping platform in China, instead it said the Google Maps browser has been available in China for many years, while it “does not have an official presence in Android or iOS app stores in China.” 
Since January 2016, China has imposed strict rules on the collection and use of map data in the name of safeguarding national sovereignty and geographic information security.
China demanded that a provider of geographic information should “possess proper qualifications, house servers storing geographic data within Chinese territory, and develop measures to ensure data security.”
Having withdrawn from the Chinese market in 2010 due to disagreement with the Chinese government’s censorship policies, Google has tried to re-enter the Chinese market where its main search platform is blocked along with its popular video platform YouTube, limiting its access to the Chinese netizens, the number of which had reached 751 million as of June 2017, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center. 
Earlier this month, Google led a $120 million investment in Chushou, a Chinese platform where users can livestream games played on their mobile phones. It is reported that about 90 million users have signed up on the platform. The last time that Google invested in a Chinese Internet company was in 2015, when it took a minority stake in a Chinese artificial intelligence startup Mobvoi as part of a $75 million fund-raising event. In 2017, Google also re-introduced its Translate mobile app for its users in China without the need for software to bypass local censorship. 
In 2016, Sundar Pichai made a candid remark to the public about coming back to China. During a conference in June 2016, the CEO said he “cares about servicing users globally in every corner. Google is for everyone,” and Google “wants to be in China serving Chinese users.”

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