China wants to control what apps citizens use. But can Google play along?

February 28, 2017
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Google is mulling a new way to finally get its official Play Store through the Great Firewall ofChina. But it faces an uphill battle, as the country tightens its grip on what apps its citizens have on their smartphones.

The Information reports that Netease, China’s second-largest games firm, has approached Google to form a joint venture, in order to launch the Play Store in the world’s largest smartphone market.

This follows rumours from 2015 that Google was working on a China-only version of its Play Store, in order to comply with regulators.

Google has in recent years attempted to re-enter the Chinese market, after it famously clashed with Chinese regulators over the country’s censorship practices.

Google would later exit China in 2010, after it detected a series of cyberattacks that it pinned on the Chinese government. The administration did not officially claim responsibility, however.

With Android phone usage soaring in China and Google’s web properties geo-blocked, most users in China instead turn to third party app stores. Many of these carry copies of Play Store apps — and malicious versions sneak onboard, at times.

In January, the Cyberspace Administration of China said these app stores would need to registerofficially, to curb illegal activities such as copyright infringement and fraud.

Enforcement of the rule is steadily rolling out across the country. On Wednesday, Shanghai announced its registration system, reported official state-run press.

But the registration process is also rankling foreign app stores, which worry about China’s ever-increasing censorship practices. In January, the New York Times iPhone app was pulled from Apple’s App Store. Authorities reportedly worked only with Apple, and the paper only found out about the removal when it happened.

Under the new registration rules, app stores will have to log user activity for 60 days, and will be required to police the store for “illegal content.”

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