A spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated that the government would not restrict Google’s mobile-based operating system Android despite the furor over the US internet company’s recent rejection of government censorship. This announcement represents the first such proclamation since Google and China entered into conflict two weeks ago following an alleged Chinese hacking attack on Google’s servers.
The decision isn’t surprising – all three of China’s mobile carriers either already offer or have plans to offer phones with Android-based operating systems. Rejecting Google’s Android platform would remove these phones from the market and damage China’s mobile carriers, which are already struggling with the transition to 3G and consider handset choice to be a key component of attracting new users.
Most importantly, China Mobile, the largest mobile carrier, is planning to introduce an Android-based OPhone to compete directly with the iPhone, which is offered exclusively by China Unicom. Since Android is independent of Google’s search functions, restricting the OPhone would offer only a pyrrhic victory, and would produce results entirely counterintuitive to the investment made by China’s government and China Mobile in the homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G standard.
Google leadership in markets beyond pure search mean that rejecting Google out of hand might benefit domestic search providers like Baidu, but at the cost of other technological sectors – such as mobile carriers – that are equally important to China’s development. The conflict between the Google and China has already reached a fever pitch, but Beijing cannot help but be pragmatic in order to avoid collateral damage.