After years of struggling with the Chinese government, Google appears to have finally given up the battle.
The company appears to be sick of being kicked by both its American supporters for bowing to Chinese censorship and by the Communist party for not being a Chinese company.
2009 was a particularly difficult year. Google.cn and Gmail both got mysteriously and temporarily blocked. Youtube, of course, is permanently blocked.
In June, the government launched an attack on the company for not censoring out pornographic sites, even though an equivalent amount of porn is available through Google’s Chinese competitor, Baidu.
On June 19, CCTV ran a critical documentary on the company, involving an inteview with a university student who was later unmasked on the internet as a CCTV staffer.
The pressure from the government eventually led to the resignation of Kaifu Lee, Google China’s chief executive, in September.
Now his successor, Liu Yun, or John Liu, has given an interview to China Business News in which he confirms the company has switched tack. The newspaper reported that several Google China employees involved in customizing the company’s programs for the Chinese market, had left.
At the end of November, Google Hot Trends in China stopped regularly updating. The company’s China weather report is now also stopping from next year. One engineer told CBN that "many product managers and technical chiefs" have left from the company’s search, webpage and maps divisions.
Zhang Xide, the product manager for Chinese mobile product research has returned to the US, as has Sheng Jia, who is in charge of search. With nothing to distinguish it from its rival, Google’s market share has dipped to 19.8% while Baidu continues to grow.
Mr Liu said the company was "indeed making adjustments". He said: "It is time to turn back."
"We can’t turn everybody into a Google user, no way to bind the customers to the Google and forbids them to use other search engines. On the contrary, we have worried that in so doing, we are driving away our loyal customers. We are not Google China, but Google in China."
His words suggest capitulation.