State of Google-China relationship unclear after cyberattack

A Chinese official stressed repeatedly on Saturday that his country's government has not had any direct contact with Google, despite the search company's recent threats to cease doing business there.

That assurance contradicts a host of recent reports that Google and China have been trying to remedy their differences formally, in the weeks after a cyberattack allegedly born out of China targeted human rights activists on Google's Gmail system.

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In an interview this week with China Daily, state Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Vice President Miao Wei stressed bluntly, "We have yet to have any direct contacts or negotiations with [Google] on this topic."

He later added that China would respect Google's right to cease business operations in the state, if the tech giant ultimately pursued that route.

However, that differs markedly from recent reports that Google has tried to remedy its tenuous relationship with China, even as the company promises to stop adhering to Chinese censorship rules and begin offering users there unfettered access to search results.

Notably, Wei's own boss, ministry chief Li Yizhong, told The Telegraph on Friday that both sides are cooperating. However, Google executives declined to confirm those talks.