Google vs Baidu: Chinese analysts split on who will be the search winner
Google's possible launch of a new search engine for the Chinese mainland will encounter fierce competition from its Chinese counterpart Baidu Inc, analysts said on Tuesday.
The comment came after Baidu CEO Robin Li Yanhong said on Tuesday that he is confident in his company's ability to compete with its U.S. counterpart Google, even as the latest news about the possible launch of a new search engine in the Chinese mainland by the giant U.S. search engine generated buzz among Chinese netizens, with a poll showing nearly 90 percent of them prefer to use Google if its search service returns.
Li said in a post shared on his WeChat moments that domestic technology companies are fully capable of competing with foreign rivals and sharing the dividends of globalization.
For years, it has been widely considered that Baidu took advantage of Google's exit from the mainland, but that cannot be proved, Li said.
On Tuesday, Wang Xiaochuan, CEO of the country's No.2 search engine Sogou Inc, also responded to the news of Google's possible return, saying that if Google launches its services in the mainland, it will offer more options.
Google launched its search engine service in the Chinese market in 2000, earlier than Baidu, and increased its investments in 2005, Li noted.
"However, Baidu quickly caught up and became more innovative than Google," he said.
After the U.S. tech giant pulled out its services from the mainland in 2010, Baidu accounted for more than 70 percent of the market share, Li said.
When Google shut down its search engine service in the mainland, it accounted for less than a 30 percent market share, as its Chinese language services were less competitive than those of Baidu, Xiang Ligang, a Beijing-based industry analyst, told the Global Times. "I was also a regular Google user before. When I searched for articles including my name, there were about 200,000 to 300,000 results on Google, but more than 1 million on Baidu. That was the difference," he said.
Still, the possible return of the U.S. search engine to the mainland also generated buzz among Chinese netizens, with a poll showing nearly 90 percent of them prefer to use Google over Baidu.
An online poll of 6,501 netizens conducted by China's Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday showed that 87.3 percent of netizens will choose to use Google while only 5.8 percent will use Baidu. The poll, which was seen by the Global Times around 2:50 pm and supposed to last six days, disappeared later on Tuesday.
"There is some criticism over Baidu's bidding mechanism for rankings, which is also a business model to make profits for a company. Google needs to consider its own business model too as it does not offer free services," Xiang said.
Google declined to comment when contacted by the Global Times on Tuesday.
The analyst also noted that Baidu has more advantages in increasing servers, managing data and localizing its services.
Some analysts held different views of the potential battle. "Though Google has less of an edge in the search engine area, Android is present everywhere, and that competitive power in the Chinese market will be incomparable," Fang Xingdong, founder of Beijing-based technology think tank ChinaLabs, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Although the market cap of Baidu is close to $82 billion, it has not become a global giant yet, and the Chinese company really needs to reflect on this fact, Fang noted.