Will China target Google? Is it revenge for Huawei and TikTok?

Business & Technology

China could pursue an antitrust investigation into Google’s use of its Android operating system as soon as October, according to Reuters. The move would come after the Trump administration’s attacks on TikTok, WeChat, Huawei, and SMIC.

google under scrutiny in china
Illustration by Derek Zheng

Technology has played a large role in the Trump administration’s barrage of anti-China actions in recent months. Since early August, the U.S. government ordered TikTok to be restructured and WeChat to be banned (both orders have been blocked in court, for now), implemented the strictest-yet sanctions on Huawei, and issued new restrictions on exports to China’s top semiconductor manufacturer SMIC.

Beijing is preparing to counterattack in multiple ways, though the exact timing and details of these measures are still unknown.

Another possible move: Investigating Google for antitrust violations. Reuters reports:

China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Alphabet Inc’s Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition…

The case was proposed by telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd last year and has been submitted by the country’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review…

A decision on whether to proceed with a formal investigation may come as soon as October and could be affected by the state of China’s relationship with the United States

It was “not immediately clear what Google services the potential probe would focus on,” Reuters adds.

  • Google was fined $5.1 billion in Europe in 2018 for practices including “forcing phone makers to pre-install Google apps on Android devices,” and India is looking into allegations of similar practices, but the Google Play store and most of Google’s apps are banned in China.
  • Huawei is preparing to launch its own operating system, Harmony OS, onto its smartphones by next year, after the first round of U.S. sanctions on Huawei locked the company out of the official version of Android’s OS in May 2019.
  • For more on Google’s operations in China, read on SupChina: Google parent company Alphabet is back in China (because it never left).

Meanwhile, Washington continues to scrutinize Chinese influence in the American technology sector. The Washington Post reports that since this spring, the “Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has contacted dozens of U.S. companies to screen shareholders for national-security risks.” Some inquiries have reportedly been about investments going back “almost 10 years,” according to Stephen Heifetz, a lawyer at Wilson Sonsini.