Google is testing a mobile version of its search engine that would adhere to China's strict controls over content, a person familiar with the matter said, indicating renewed interest in a market that the Alphabet Inc. GOOGL -0.24% unit abandoned eight years ago in protest over government censorship.
Plans for Google's censored search product aren't completed, and it may never come to fruition, the person said.
Chief among the hurdles, Google would need approval to re-enter the search market from Chinese authorities, who block access within the country to Google's search engine as well as many other foreign news and social-networking sites.
If the effort were to proceed, it would mark a sharp about-face for Google that is certain to fuel controversy among human-rights advocates and many of its own employees, as well as U.S. politicians.
A Google spokeswoman noted that the company already offers several other apps in China, including one for translation, and that it works with Chinese developers and has invested in Chinese companies including e-commerce giant JD.com Inc.
Google's Chinese search effort, which was reported earlier by the Intercept, is coming to light at a time of rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which also could complicate Google's plans.