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Baidu puts up brave front as rival Google’s China comeback looms


Robin Li Yanhong, the chairman and chief executive of Baidu, said the Chinese online search market leader is looking to beat Google in its return to China, despite increased speculation that the US technology giant could become a major internet player in the world’s second largest economy.


“If Google re-enters the market, it gives us the opportunity to PK with real swords and spears and win one more time,” Li said in a post on his WeChat account on Tuesday that was verified by Baidu. PK is the acronym for “player kill”, a term most often used in online role-playing games, that suggests the death of another gamer’s avatar in a virtual world.


The commentary said Google’s decision to exit the Chinese market was a “huge blunder which resulted in the company missing golden chances in the mainland’s internet development”.


Google had some 14 per cent of China’s search traffic and 33 per cent revenue share before the company’s exit from the market in 2010, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence research note on Friday. Baidu’s search engine had 79 per cent of traffic and 63 per cent of search-related sales at that time.


“Over the years, Baidu was seen to have taken advantage of Google’s exit,” Li said in his post. He claimed Baidu never did such a thing.


Google’s search results, however proved different from Baidu’s about 85 per cent of the time in 2010, according to a study by Baigoogledu, a Chinese internet research site that compared the two services. That apparently showed how Google’s search engine was more accurate compared with Baidu’s, which is subject to monitoring by the state’s Great Firewall.


Despite initial optimism from some quarters, it seemed “unlikely” for Google to make a successful comeback in China, according to Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism and communications at Beijing Foreign Studies University.


“The commentary made by People’s Daily was merely to put on a gesture of openness,” Zhan said.


The US company’s plan for a censored search app was first reported by The Intercept, while The information reported that Google also had plans for a news-aggregation app for China.

谷歌愿意接受审查并开发一个新搜索应用的消息最早由The Intercept报道。而据报道,谷歌也计划为中国建立一个新闻聚合应用。

Both Baidu and Google have declined to comment.


Speculation over Google’s change of approach in dealing with China’s rigid censorship laws highlights how important the mainland Chinese market is perceived by major hi-tech companies in the US.


Although China’s internet penetration is just over 50 per cent, its sheer scale means that there are three times the number of smartphone users and 11 times the number of mobile payment users in the country than in the US, according to the report.


The mainland Chinese market, however, has been off-limits to the operations of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are behind the country’s Great Firewall. Google’s search engine and other services are in the same predicament.


Still, Baidu’s Li remained confident of his company’s future prospects.


“Tech firms in China have enough capabilities and confidence nowadays to come out strong amid healthy competition with global peers,” Li said in his WeChat post.


“The world is copying from China. That is what every global firm should consider seriously before entering China.”