Microsoft’s search engine – Bing is no longer available in China as of Thursday morning, rendering yet another non-Chinese service inaccessible to the world’s largest online population. The apparent blocking of the search platform came on the order of the government, CNBC reported, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
In an emailed statement, a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that the search engine is currently inaccessible in China and the tech giant is engaged to determine the next steps. According to the CNBC news, the internet is heavily censored in mainland China as form of information control, including the blockage of popular social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.
On Thursday morning, Bing was sporadically available for few users, while others faced the page that said “This site can’t be reached”. Inaccessibility to Bing came despite the company’s efforts to build a local operation on Beijing’s terms. Further, to be in line with the government censorship Microsoft has stopped content deemed illegal in China from showing up in results.
The surprise move, however, came as conflicts with the United States increase and China pursues a record digital crackdown, shutting down over 700 websites and thousands of apps in a span of just three weeks.
As reported in CNBC, concerns are raised among market participants that the US-China conflict could spill over into a so-called ‘tech-war’. Any action against Microsoft could set off alarm bells for large American tech firms such as Apple who is highly reliant on the Chinese Market.
Zhu Min, former deputy governor of the of the People’s Bank of China said Tuesday that Beijing could completely cut-off its investment into the Silicon Valley as scrutiny of Huawei – the world’s largest telecom equipment producer – intensifies. Intense security concerns of privately-held Huawei’s technology have been raised and deteriorated further following the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief technical officer, in Canada in December 2018.
She was detained at the request of Washington over allegations that Huawei has violated American sanctions on Iran and still faces the possibility of extradition in the United States. The U.S. and other nations including Canada, Britain, Germany and Australia have accused China of technology theft and blocked Huawei’s equipment from critical infrastructure projects, while Beijing denied all those allegations.
China is reportedly intensifying its campaign to scrub the domestic internet and has openly declared its intent to become a tech leader in the world over the next ten years, investing heavily in technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.