Google has led a $550 M strategic investment in Chinese e commerce company JD.com. According to a joint statement from both the companies they wish to "collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions" in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia.
The first joint effort will be to offer JD.com's products on Google Shopping Platform all across the world. And there will be many more joint efforts in future, both inside and outside China. Jd.com has very solid expertise in automated warehouse technology and next generation of logistics and supply chain tech including drones, warehousee robotics etc.
Google has been slowly building out it's China strategy because it doesn't want to miss out on the massive explosion of growth the country has seen in the technology sector. Search giant recently launched its file manager for Android devices called Files Go in China. Google has been largely absent from China since 2010 after it shut down its Chinese search site Google.cn after pressure from Chinese government and redirected the visitors to Google.com.hk, which is the HongKong based website of Google. Google's Hong Kong website sat outside the Chinese Firewall and presented users with traditional Chinese and English uncensored results.
Google released this statement on it's blog after it pulled out it's services from China in 2010 :
"On January 12, we announced on this blog that Google and more than twenty other U.S. companies had been the victims of a sophisticated cyber attack originating from China, and that during our investigation into these attacks we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers. We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger—had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.
So earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.
Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced—it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.
In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk. Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them. Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers. We are immensely proud of them."
For its app Files Go Google will be partnering up with local distribution channels as Google Play Store is banned in China. These local partners include companies like Tencent, Huawei, Xiaomi etc who will be putting up Google Files Go app on their independent app stores. It makes perfect sense for Google to return to China because it is one of the largest single market of smartphone users and contributes the maximum app downloads and highest app revenue per year. But the approach for Google won't be straightforward and it will have to partner up with the local players for Chinese market penetration.
Earlier in 2018 Google also decided to bring its AR Core technology which enables Augmented reality and virtual reality development platform, to China by partnering up with device manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Huawei and Samsung. AR Core tech is interesting choice for Google because this tech doesn't need access to Google cloud, so technically it can't be banned by Chinese Government.
Google has also been investing quite actively in Chinese tech startups such as biotech-focused XtalPi - AI powered drug discovery platform and live-streaming service Chushou and also announced an AI lab in Beijing. Parallely Google gained a large tech presence in Taiwan via the completion of its acquisition of a chunk of HTC. Search giant also opened a presence in Shenzhen, the Chinese city known as ‘the Silicon Valley of hardware.’ Google is following a complicated set of strategic efforts in order to make sure that it doesn't miss out on China.