Baidu founder confident to beat Google if it returns to China

Google, which exited the Chinese market in 2010 due to government censorship, is rumored to be returning to the country with a censored app to comply with local laws.
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor

Chinese search engine Baidu, owning a dominating market share in China since Google's exit from the local market eight years ago, is ready to win against the US technology giant again if it returns to China, according to Baidu founder and CEO Robin Li.

"If Google decides to return to China, we will take the chance to have a real fight, and we will win it again," Li said on his private social network last week, commenting on an article on Chinese government mouthpiece People's Daily that says Google is welcome to return to mainland China only if it complies with Chinese laws.

The market share of the US technology giant in China has continued to fall since 2010 when it decided to leave the country, Li wrote, adding that the Chinese company already owned over a 70 percent share in China eight years ago, according to a Chinese report.

Li said that Chinese tech companies have already taken the lead over the years, adding that times have changed and the whole world is now copying China.

The Intercept reported early this month that Google is planning a filtered search app in China to comply with the government's stringent censorship on content, citing leaked documents. Bloomberg subsequently said that the US firm is also in talks with China's Tencent and a few other companies to offer its cloud services in mainland China, citing people familiar with the discussions, implying that Google is laying solid groundwork for its return to the world's second-largest economy.

But Google's turnaround could never become easy in China as the company will have to face the same issue that prompted its decision to leave the country eight years ago -- Google left the Chinese mainland in 2010 amid a censorship and hacking feud with the Chinese government, with the company moving its online search services to Hong Kong afterwards.

"All foreign internet companies in China should respect China's internet management," People's Daily said in commentary titled Stability prerequisite for China's internet opening up.

Baidu currently owns nearly 74 percent of search-engine market share in China, followed by Shenma, Haosou, and Sogou, said Statcounter. Google still has some 1.7 percent market share through VPN use.

Google is not the only US tech company banned in China with an intention to return to the market. Facebook reportedly planned to register a subsidiary in the eastern city of Hangzhou that was fully owned by Facebook Hong Kong Ltd.

Facebook also announced plans to open an innovation hub in mainland China, but the government withdrew its approval.


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