Google Maps seeks to return to China
Beijing: The US-based internet search giant Google has applied for an online maps license to operate in China, seeking to return to the lucrative market in the Communist nation after a year-long absence following a row with Beijing over privacy issues.
China's mapping service regulator said today that Google's application for an online maps license, which is required for operating such service in China, is under official examination.
Google, which desisted from applying for the license after China brought about a new rule making it mandatory for the companies to have joint venture in 2010, picked up Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Co. Ltd as its partner in China.
The National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, said in a statement that Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Co. Ltd, a joint-venture of Google, submitted the application in November last year.
Analysts said Google, which had a head-on confrontation with China over privacy issues in 2010 and shifted its headquarters to Hong Kong, is now looking to stage a comeback lured by flourishing Chinese internet market, which has already crossed the 500-million mark.
During the period of the license application being examined by authorities, Google's online maps service in China can maintain the status quo, but its service content should not be increased, the statement said, citing regulations.
According to China's regulations, foreign companies are banned from providing internet mapping services in China, and for joint ventures involved in internet mapping, foreign investors' stake in the enterprise should not exceed 50 percent.
Foreign-funded Google China and local firm Ganji.com each hold a 50 per cent stake in Beijing Guxiang Information Technology Co.Ltd, the operator of the google.cn website, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
So far, 279 firms or organisations have been granted licenses for offering online mapping services, the administration said, adding it has almost achieved the goal of ensuring that all existing service providers operate with a permit.
China has already launched its own mapping service to rival Google to reduce the dependence on the American giant.
The administration is still investigating seven other websites for offering maps service without official approval, according to the statement, which did not identify the websites, the Xinhua report said.
"The move to bring internet mapping services under regulation will facilitate public access to better quality online maps as well as maintain state geoinformation security," the report said.