Google Translate shut down in China due to perceived low usage

What happened now? One of the few Google services still available in mainland China, Google Translate has been discontinued in the Asian country, ostensibly because almost no one was using it. The country-specific website for Google Translate now redirects visitors to the Hong Kong version, which is not available from mainland China.

“We are discontinuing Google Translate in mainland China due to low usage,” Google said in a statement. But according to the Similarweb web analytics platform (via South China Morning Post), the Chinese website Google Translate recorded 53.5 million visits by computer and mobile users in August.

Google has had a complicated relationship with China over the years. A massive cyberattack, combined with the heavy government censorship Internet users have to face, prompted the US firm to pull its search engine out of China in 2010, just four years after it officially entered the market. The move came shortly after Google ended its censorship of its services in the country in a challenge to the government.

Google Translate was reintroduced in mainland China in 2017 after rumors that it was due to return. But now it joins Gmail, Chrome, and Search on Google’s list of unavailable products in the country, much to the dismay of users, but no doubt bringing a smile to the faces of VPN companies.

Despite the apparent hostility, reports surfaced in 2018 that Google had created a heavily censored version of its search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, for the Chinese market, which linked queries to phone numbers. It has also been said that it blocks some banned topics, including religion, human rights, and peaceful protests. The news sparked a lot of protests from Google employees, US politicians and human rights activists, which contributed to the project’s shutdown after a few months, ensuring it never sees the light of day.

Tensions between China and the US have been on the rise lately. The passage of the Chip Law sparked cries of discrimination from Chinese politicians, and US officials ordering Nvidia and AMD to stop selling their high-end AI-focused GPUs to the country sparked a lot of anger. The US is also hitting China with export bans and cuts, hindering plans to develop a domestic semiconductor market, and we recently learned of a failed campaign in China that tried to influence medium-term conditions in the US. But none of this has deterred Microsoft from expanding its presence in the country.

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