Google has managed to maintain a limited presence in China despite the country’s strict censorship regime. It also provides other services, such as Maps and Translate, primarily for commercial use by Chinese firms. However, Google Translate is being disabled.
According to Google, the official reason for Translate’s departure from the country is “low usage.” The Google Translate China website now displays a splash screen with a link to Google Translate Hong Kong.
While Alibaba and Baidu vie for first place in online services, Google powers some translation features for third-party services such as the document viewing app KOReader. Those users are now left wondering what the publisher will do to close the hole.
There is speculation that Google Translate’s demise in China is related to the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress, which takes place on October 16 — government censors are more proactive and aggressive around large events, taking foreign services offline as well as tracking and banning memes and keywords circulating on social media. One such example was President Xi Jinping’s comparison to A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. Mentions of a cuddly, rotund teddy bear were scrubbed in advance of the last National Congress.
On the other hand, China has maintained its influence on the global digital stage, with TikTok serving as one of its most prominent examples. With hundreds of millions of daily active users, parent company ByteDance has resisted calls to sell the app to foreign investors and, more tellingly, has increased its reliance on Chinese leadership across its global divisions.