WASHINGTON Microsoft Corp has no plans to pull out of China, its chief executive said on Thursday, playing down concerns about recent cyber-attacks and censorship raised by rival Google Inc.
The company's stance indicates the world's largest software maker is not likely to support its fierce rival in its battle with China and rebuffs broad U.S. political backing for Google.
"There are attacks every day. I don't think there was anything unusual, so I don't understand," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Reuters after a meeting on modernizing government services at the White House.
"We're attacked every day from all parts of the world and I think everybody else is too. We didn't see anything out of the ordinary."
On Tuesday, Google threatened to pull out of China -- the world's biggest Internet market by users -- citing censorship and cyber-attacks on rights activists' email accounts there.
Google claimed more than 20 other large companies had been the target of cyber-attacks originating in China, but Microsoft has said it has no evidence any of its e-mail services or corporate networks being specifically attacked.
When asked if Microsoft had any plan to pull its business out of China, Ballmer answered "No."
"I don't understand how that helps anything. I don't understand how that helps us and I don't understand how that helps China," Ballmer said.
Microsoft has high hopes for its Bing Internet search engine in China, which has only a small share of the market, but could benefit if Google, the No. 2 player behind dominating local rival Baidu Inc, pulls out.
Ballmer's comments run counter to broad political support for Google. The White House said on Thursday it is backing Google's decision to no longer support China's censoring of searches.
A group of Republican lawmakers on Thursday called for tech heavyweights Cisco Systems Inc, Yahoo Inc and Microsoft to speak out against censorship, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged tech companies on Wednesday not to assist China's attempts to prohibit free exchange of ideas.
(Reporting by John Poirier in Washington, Bill Rigby in Seattle; editing by Andre Grenon)