Yes, the China gold rush is on, but it won’t include the young Mountain View shopping search engine Become.com (which we profiled here). Not yet, anyway. The company is expanding to Japan first, creating a business model that emulates the Softbank-Yahoo Japan partnership. Become is partnering with Japanese marketing firm Transcosmos. The two will share ownership of Become Japan 50-50.

“There’s a lot happening around China,” Become CEO Michael Yang tells us. “But we thought China was too early. The infrastructure is not there yet. Credit card use is not big enough. And the whole legal and regulatory environment is not transparent enough yet. It’s a matter of timing for us.”

Transcosmos is one of the leading search marketing firms in Japan and will provide Become with “local knowledge and expertise that could help us,” Yang said. Become’s competitors in Japan will include Yahoo (“the 800-pound gorilla,” Yang says), online shopping site Rakutan and comparison shopping engine Kakaku.com.

Become Japan will launch sometime before the end of the year. Yang says the goal is to take Become Japan public in Japan.