Google Scholar will reportedly be the vanguard of the US search giant's much-speculated attempt to reenter the Chinese mainland market, which, if confirmed, would breathe new life into China's marketplace for academic search engines and would allow more reciprocity for Chinese tech firms seeking footholds in Western markets.
Since Google's pullback from the Chinese mainland in 2010, there have been numerous reports speculating on its return to the increasingly juicy market. The latest episode of Google's mainland reentry series stars its search engine for scholarly literature, according to a recent report by the South China Morning Post which cited Liu Binjie, a lawmaker and former head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, as saying that "the academic sector will be the first to get through," speaking of Google's return.
If Google is truly able to run into the field from the sidelines by first moving in with Google Scholar, it will decidedly improve the discoverability of academic journals, outfitting Chinese students, authors and researchers with more powerful ammunition.
In addition, Google's mainland market return, it is believed, will serve as a stimulant for the elevation of the country's Internet market where falsified and misleading advertising is abundant in the world's largest Internet market with 731 million users as of December 2016. In a sign, at its annual Consumer Day Gala on Wednesday, China's State broadcaster CCTV identified baike.com, known as the world's largest Chinese encyclopedia site, as the biggest "junkyard" filled with various fake advertisements.
Admittedly, with the likes of Baidu Scholar and CNKI that already offer access to a growing amount of Chinese and foreign literature, it's barely a blue ocean market to be tapped by Google Scholar. But even though Google Scholar is not officially accessible in the mainland, just like Google, many Chinese people still go out of their way to access the search giant's services by using VPNs, indicating an insufficiency in domestic search engines in providing search results, particularly when responding to foreign-language queries.
As such, if Google Scholar is eventually unblocked, there will be the possibility that its Chinese rivals will immediately face considerable pressure. Viewpoints among domestic industry insiders that play down the possible competition arising from the speculated move, I would argue, are slightly overconfident.
That said, these rumors by no means suggest that there will be an easy win for Google Scholar, whose mainland market return has so far remained speculative, while its Chinese counterparts, notably Baidu Scholar, have continued to include more English-language resources and publications and to allow for easier yet more fruitful searching.
It also needs to be noted that Google Scholar's availability, if authorized in the mainland market, will make it easier for Chinese tech firms to crack into Western markets. The move would arguably convince the outside world that China has been continuously moving ahead in opening its market, the Internet arena included, to provide a level playing field for businesses from both at home and abroad. In this sense, China's homegrown Internet businesses that are in pursuit of an overseas presence, but nonetheless have been hitting roadblocks in their merger and acquisition attempts, will possibly enjoy more reciprocity and rejoicing over an easier future.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. email@example.com