Xi Jinping has made it clear this week that he will be seeking out allies in U.S. tech companies, meeting with CEOs and executives from top-name companies including Microsoft and Apple this week as part of his first state visit.
But there will be one notable absence among the U.S. tech titans: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, will not be invited, according to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal.
The meeting in Seattle, which marks the first stop on Xi Jinping’s tour, has highly political undertones. The Chinese government is currently under threat of possible sanctions from the U.S. for a series of high-profile hacking allegations.
The meeting could be a call for support from Xi Jinping, looking for the western tech companies’ backing, or it could be a show of dominance, as many of the invited tech companies are looking to make China their biggest market.
Either way, Google’s absence is conspicuous, but not a huge surprise. The company has been progressively banned from China since 2010, when the tensions with the Chinese government came to a head over censorship restrictions and data-sharing requirements. The American search engine was ousted behind the firewall, followed by a series of other Google services including Gmail which was banned just last year.
However here has been a small silver lining to Google’s China raincloud recently. The company is reportedly plotting a return to the mainland, hoping to launch a modified version of the Android Play Store in China this fall. It’s a government-friendly option, but it could be the company’s only route into the market for the foreseeable future.
It’s not clear whether Google and Sundar Pichai’s ‘un-invite’ from Xi Jinping and his delegation is due to their rocky past relationship, though it suggests there are still barriers between the two, and that despite their improving situation, they are far from having a public friendship.
It’s also not clear at this point whether Mark Zuckerberg or any other Facebook executive has been invited to attend, though it is somewhat more likely despite being under a similar ban in China. The social media site has been targeting Chinese companies attempting to expand outward, and many of China’s state media organizations have a large budget for advertising on western social media.