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Home / Technology / App News /  Google pulls translation app from China

Google pulls translation app from China

REUTERS

  • Discontinuation of Google Translate in China comes as domestic alternatives proliferate

Google discontinued its Google Translate service in mainland China citing low usage, marking another retreat by the U.S. tech giant from the country.

Google discontinued its Google Translate service in mainland China citing low usage, marking another retreat by the U.S. tech giant from the country.

The pullback from China by Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., is the latest in a broad withdrawal by American internet companies from the country in recent years, as domestic competition, a tougher regulatory environment and a strict internet censorship regime complicate the efforts of Western companies to operate there. China has also seen a proliferation of homegrown translation services in recent years that compete with foreign alternatives.

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The pullback from China by Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., is the latest in a broad withdrawal by American internet companies from the country in recent years, as domestic competition, a tougher regulatory environment and a strict internet censorship regime complicate the efforts of Western companies to operate there. China has also seen a proliferation of homegrown translation services in recent years that compete with foreign alternatives.

In 2010, Google withdrew its search-engine business in China after refusing to agree to censor its search results in the country. Still, the company has sought to expand its foothold there. In 2017, it launched an improved version of the Google Translate app for users in China. Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told employees in 2018 that the company wasn’t close to relaunching a search engine in China, but defended continuing to do business in the country despite human-rights concerns.

The company used to operate an artificial intelligence research center in Beijing, but it disbanded the center in 2019 and has said it no longer conducts AI research in the country. Google maintains a select number of services in China, including Chrome, which is China’s most popular desktop web browser, according to website analytics company StatCounter. Electronics merchants on Chinese e-commerce websites also sell Google hardware such as its Pixel smartphone and its Nest smart speaker.

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Both the app and browser version of Google Translate have been discontinued in China, a company spokeswoman said Monday. Checks by The Wall Street Journal found that users visiting Google Translate’s China website would be redirected to the Hong Kong browser version of the service, which then failed to load. The Google Translate app was unable to be used on a phone with a mainland China SIM card from Singapore.

China’s homegrown translation services have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, with Beijing having made advancement in AI research a national priority. Popular services include Baidu Translate, run by the country’s leading search-engine provider, Baidu Inc. Rival search engine Sogou Inc. also provides a widely used translation service, while iFlytek Inc. sells an array of voice-recognition and translation services.

A number of U.S. tech firms have scaled back their operations in China in recent years as China made strides in building its own domestic alternatives in everything from social media to search engines to food delivery and ride hailing.

In June, Amazon Inc. said it was discontinuing its Kindle digital bookstore in the country. Last year, Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn shut down its professional networking service in China, citing a challenging operating environment and increased compliance requirements. Airbnb Inc. closed its domestic business in China after harsh Covid-19 lockdowns compounded the pain from mounting local competition.

In recent years, Beijing has ratcheted up control over more sectors of society, seeking to more forcefully assert itself across the economy. That has led to tighter control over the technology sector and stricter regulations governing data privacy and security for companies operating there.

Although U.S. internet companies have broadly retreated from China, other Western firms continue to make large profits in the country, including U.S. makers of semiconductors and Western vendors of chip-manufacturing equipment, even as the U.S. tightens restrictions on exports of some products on security grounds.

—Rachel Liang contributed to this article.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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