Spoke with a Google spokesperson just now, who clarified the multiple reports, including mine, about Google’s plans in China. Google is opening an office on the mainland, but the office is not an indication of a new operation, she told me. Rather, the company has obtained a license to open a “representative office” – which she described as a place where Google folks can work and hold meetings when they are visiting China. The goal is to spend more time in the country, get to know the local business and political infrastructure, and get smart about options moving forward. As to what those options are, Google had no comment, but did say it was considering a number of them.
The office is in a shared office space set up, the kind of place many businesses lease when they are starting out in a new country (I’ve done it before in London with The Standard). Apparently the local Hong Kong and Chinese press have had a field day with this story, going so far as to interview a woman who runs the leased office space and claim she was an employee of the company. “Google is committed to learning as much as it can about the local market,” the real Google spokesperson told me. But she added that Google has not hired anyone in China. As to reports that Google had retained Victor Koo, she claimed to have no knowledge of that one way or another.