Normal life might seem a tad bit unimaginable without the constant assistance of Google. But residents of China have a slightly different experience when it comes to Google. Google was shut down in China in 2010 following a showdown with the government over censor policies. Since then Google, Gmail, Youtube and its other products are banned in the world's second largest economy. But Google CEO Sundar Pichai hinting at a better future for the search engine in China said that it is helping Chinese companies gain global access.
"A lot of work Google does is to help Chinese companies", the 45-year-old Indian-born Google CEO, who has a BTech degree from IIT Kharagpur, said at a state-run global internet conference at the Chinese city of Wuzen. The conference was also addressed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"Many small and medium-sized businesses in China take advantage of Google to get their products to many other countries outside of China," Pichai told the meeting, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
After the ban, Google subsequently shifted its operations to Hong Kong. However, in its absence, Chinese firms like Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and JD.com emerged most powerful players, not only in the country but abroad as well.
Google and its products can be accessed in China through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) over which Beijing has stepped up a crackdown in recent times. Apple this year agreed to the Chinese government's requests to remove dozens of virtual private network (VPN) apps services that allow Chinese users to access blocked websites from its local App Store.
Skype, the calling app, was removed from its mainland App Store this autumn.
Pichai's attendance at the state sponsored internet meeting came after China recently lifted the ban on Google translation services.
Besides Google, a number of global social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter remain banned in China over fears that their presence would open-up to millions of China's social media users marginalising the official media.
The World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, near Shanghai, is an annual gathering of mainly Chinese internet officials and internet company executives as well as bureaucrats from developing countries.
The previous three conferences in 2014, 2015 and 2016 were not attended by top US tech executives including Cook and Pichai, the Post report said.
The Chinese government uses the event to pursue its argument that its censorship and regulation of the internet does not harm the development of technology and business prosperity.
Xi said that online developments were raising many new challenges to sovereignty and security, and China was "willing to work with the international community to respect cyberspace sovereignty and promote partnerships".