Google has been purposefully absent from China since 2010 when it left over increased government censorship, but they’re going back soon. Lenovo’s head of mobile, Chen Xudong, just confirmed that Google will launch Play services in 2016, 9to5Google reports.
True, this is not verified by Google, but it’s pretty close. Lenovo works with Google on Android in countries other than China, so it makes sense that they would be the launch partner for Play services.
There are a lot of things we still don’t know, such as when Google plans to launch Play services in China – Xudong didn’t say exactly when, just sometime this year. Another thing we don’t know is which services will be available when Play launches. And one more thing we don’t know is whether manufacturers will have the choice between Play services and third-party app stores, or if Google will force them to stick to the same policies as manufacturers outside of China.
Google and China have an interesting history, to put it mildly. In 2014, China removed Google Docs, Play and Gmail from the country completely. And let’s not forget the hacking scandal in 2010 that ended up bringing a U.S. investigation into China hacking services for private information.
But as China adds more and more mobile and Internet users, Western companies can’t help but want to get in on that audience. Google isn’t alone in this. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent all of 2015 trying to attract the Chinese government, with nothing to show for it as of now. Maybe Google will fare better with this Play launch.