We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.
Google has declined to comment on the subject, but the reports have pummeled shares of US -listed Baidu, which dominates China's search engine market. Over the years, rumors of the Google Play Store returning to China have emerged multiple times, only to come to nothing in the end.
The Intercept obtained leaked documents showing that CEO Sundar Pichai met with a Chinese government official in December 2017, as part of a renewed push to re-enter China.
A Google spokeswoman said that the company would not speculate on future plans, but that it did already have a notable presence in China. In June, Google announced a $US550 million ($743 million) investment in the Chinese online retailer JD.com.
Google has had quite the roller coaster ride with China.
The letter noted FBI Director Christopher Wray's testimony at a February hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee when he said he was "deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks".
Since Google exited, Baidu has become the dominant search engine in China. It's an Android app, and allegedly a finalized version has been shown to Chinese government officials.
Patrick Poon, who is a Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International has said that the censored search engine will be "a big disaster for the information age".
The dynamic changed in January 2010, when Google charged that Chinese hackers had targeted Google and more than 20 other Western companies and compromised the email accounts of Chinese dissidents living overseas.
Although talks between Google and the Chinese government are believed to be ongoing, they may be overshadowed by the developing trade conflict between the US and China, which shows little sign of abating at the moment.
Google's plan reflects a growing effort by tech companies to access the Chinese market, which boasts the world's second-largest economy. The app Google is building for China will comply with the country's strict censorship laws, restricting access to content that Xi Jinping's Communist Party regime deems unfavorable.
What has been censored in China's has varied somewhat over the years.
"We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups", a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Blacklisted information will automatically be removed before the user is served up the results of their search.