Beijing is intensifying its campaign to scrub the domestic internet, which it perceives as a growing threat to social stability as the online ecosystem booms. Microsoft could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment outside regular USA business hours.
A permanent block on Bing would leave Chinese internet users to rely exclusively on Baidu, the largest search engine within the country. But those days may now be over. Google has also shelved its plan to re-enter China through a censored search application code-named "Project Dragonfly" after massive protests.
"We've confirmed that Bing is now inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps", a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to GeekWire.
It was not immediately clear why Bing has been being blocked.
"People in China can not access Bing, this is not the first time it's happened". When users are visiting the URL, an error message is displayed, and the issue has been persistent from Wednesday.More news: N.Korea Talks End Early as Differences Remain
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The Communist Party encourages internet use for business and education but blocks access to foreign websites run by news organizations, human rights and Tibet activists and others deemed subversive.
"You know, we operate in China pursuant to some global principles that's called the Global Network Initiative in terms of how we manage censorship demands and the like", he said. The news should perhaps come as little surprise - it was only a matter of time before the Chinese government also banned Microsoft's service after having banned most, if not all, of Google's products there.
Because of Google's nonattendance, state-controlled Baidu has emerged as the nation's leading search provider, controlling more than 70 percent of the market.
Smith said Microsoft isn't certain whether the blocking of its search engine "is confined to Bing or if it is something that is broader".
Both the USA and China have already levied tit-fot-tat tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods, and Trump made good on his pledge to escalate the trade war, directing Lighthizer to find another $200 billion worth of products to hit.
Greatfire.org, a group that monitors China's online censorship, told PCMag: "It is unlikely that Microsoft stepped up to the plate and lifted censorship restrictions".