I remember Google co-founder Sergey Brin calling me up in 2010 to tell me why Google was shutting down its censored Chinese search engine. China has "made great strides against poverty and whatnot," he told me. "But nevertheless, in some aspects of their policy, particularly with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents, I see the same earmarks of totalitarianism, and I find that personally quite troubling."
Eight years later, with Sergey more at the fringe of the company than ever, Google CEO Sundar Pichai is dead serious about launching a censored search engine—and products like a news aggregation app—in China again. Yet many questions remain. Chief among them, and most overlooked by the U.S. press, is why China would let the company back in. And then there is the question of why Google would want to go back.