Google backing out of China partnerships

Google’s chief executive officer told U.S. Senator Mark Warner that the company has ended some partnerships in China, the lawmaker said Tuesday on Bloomberg Television.

The search giant’s ties to China were in the spotlight this week after technology investor Peter Thiel suggested on Sunday that the U.S. government probe Google’s “seemingly treasonous” work. President Donald Trump said he wanted the U.S. attorney general to look into the claims.

Google pulled its search engine from mainland China in 2010. But the company began developing a separate prototype Chinese search service as early as 2016.

Reports of the project, called Dragonfly, surfaced shortly after Google nixed a U.S. military contract, drawing criticism from the Pentagon and U.S. politicians from both parties. Earlier this year, Google said it had moved staff off of Dragonfly, and on Tuesday Karan Bhatia, Google’s policy chief, said the project was “terminated.”

Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, didn’t specify what projects he discussed with Google CEO Sundar Pichai. A spokeswoman for the senator said they spoke about a “range of partnerships.”

“I do think there’s some explaining that Google needs to make,” Warner said in an interview with Emily Chang on “Bloomberg Technology.” “I’ve met with the Google CEO. He said they are backing out of some of those partnerships, and they’re willing to work with the U.S. government.”

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on Warner’s interview.

In January 2018, Google parent Alphabet Inc. signed a deal with Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. to cross-license technology and intellectual property.

Google was also in talks with Tencent and several other Chinese firms about bringing its cloud services to China, Bloomberg News has reported. Google has a research partnership with Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

In a speech on Sunday, Thiel, a Facebook Inc. board member, raised the question of whether Google’s management was “infiltrated” by foreign intelligence agencies. On Monday, the company said it has never worked with the Chinese military.

“I think that Mr. Thiel and Mr. Trump’s statements are a little over the top,” Warner said.

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Google backing out of China partnerships