What is surprising, however, is that Google, back in 2010, withdrew its services from China after it discovered a cyberattack from within the country that targeted it and dozens of other companies. Google has not offered search services in China since it largely exited the country in 2010.
However, news website The Intercept and later The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the California-based search giant is working on a mobile search app and search software that would leave out websites and search terms blacklisted by the Chinese government. Two different versions of the app called "Maotai" and "Longfei" have been developed and is pending approval from government officials.
A women polishes a dais before the Google global Chinese name launch on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China. A final version of the app could be launched within six to nine months, it said.
The Intercept said the project, code-named Dragonfly, has been in development since previous year.
Citing "relevant authorities", the state-owned China Securities Daily said reports suggesting that Google was returning to the Chinese market "do not conform to reality".
The plan, which was criticized by human rights advocates, comes as China has stepped up scrutiny of business dealings involving USA tech firms including Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc amid intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. Among the complaints are that Chinese companies are stealing their trade secrets. The ruling Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping frequently conducts widespread crackdowns on dissent, including targeting 300 human rights lawyers in 2015 and sending thousands of ethnic minorities to "re-education" centres in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, according to NGOs.
According to confidential internal documents obtained by The Intercept, Google's Chinese search engine-code-named Dragonfly-has been in development since last spring.
Offering a censored search engine would reaffirm the growing view that U.S. internet companies are increasingly willing to compromise on their supposed commitment to free speech for a chance to take a bite out of the Chinese market.
Pichai, who became CEO in 2015 when Google became part of parent Alphabet, has said he wants Google to be in China serving Chinese users. "In putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory". Last summer, Apple faced criticism after it removed VPN software - which many Chinese use to get around the "Great Firewall" - from its Chinese app store.
A Google spokeswoman said that the company would not speculate on future plans, but that it did already have a notable presence in China.
Sen. Tom Cotton released a statement on Thursday that slammed Google's decision to launch a search engine in China that will comply with China's censorship demands.
According to a Google employee who worked on Dragonfly and talked to the Intercept, information about the project was restricted to a "few hundred" employees. In order for Google to satisfy the Chinese government sufficiently to pave a way for its return to the market, it may have to provide similar levels of censorship controls.