After exiting China eight years ago due to censorship and hacking, Google is tuning a mobile search app that would filter blacklisted search results in order to re-enter the market, according to US media reports.
The California-based internet giant has engineers designing search software that would leave out content blacklisted by the Chinese government, according to a New York Times report citing two unnamed people familiar with the effort.
News website The Intercept first reported the story, saying the Chinese search app was being tailored for Google-backed Android operating system for mobile devices.
The service was said to have been shown to Chinese officials.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
There was no guarantee the project would result in Google search returning to China.
US internet titans have long struggled with doing business in China, home of a "Great Firewall" that blocks content as seen fit by officials.
In early 2010, Google closed up shop in mainland China after rows over censorship and hacking.
Google had cried foul over what it said were cyberattacks aimed at its source code and the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
The US and China are currently involved in a trade war, with President Donald Trump imposing tariffs and Beijing responding in kind.