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A Google Home speaker. Photo: AP
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Behind JD Deal, a Google Plan to Crack China Through Hardware

Photo: A Google Home speaker. Photo: AP

When Google unveiled its $550 million investment in Chinese online retail giant JD.com, the companies described the deal as a global alliance to expand their e-commerce businesses. But behind the scenes, according to a person familiar with the conversations, Google discussed how the link-up would help it launch its sales of consumer gadgets in China, a move that eventually could jump-start interest in its mobile apps there.

Google’s desire to gain a foothold in China’s enormous consumer market comes as the company seeks new sources of revenue to counter growing threats to its search business model from Amazon, Facebook and other online platforms. The alliance with JD, China’s biggest retailer by revenue, is a rare move for Google in China, where up until now the company’s deal-making has largely been confined to investments in startups by its venture capital businesses.

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