Baidu Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Robin Li speaks during a session of the second annual World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China, December 17, 2015.
Would Google be leading the Chinese search engine market if it had never pulled out? The founder of the current market leader, Chinese search engine giant Baidu, doubts it.
The success of Baidu isn’t necessarily linked to Google’s withdrawal from the Chinese market, Baidu’s founder Robin Li said in an interview with state broadcaster China Central Television that aired last Friday.
“This is a sort of misunderstanding. I’ve heard this a lot and I have to say I care because it isn’t the truth,” Mr. Li said in the interview.
Google Inc. abruptly ceased most operations in mainland China in 2010 following cyberattacks against Gmail users and disagreements with the government over censorship of search results.
One year before the pullout, Baidu dominated the Chinese search market with over 60% market share, while Google took second place with a share of about 33%, according to a report by market-research firm iResearch.
However, Google has been putting efforts into returning to the world’s second-largest economy in recent years.
“The one who subverts me is myself, not some other company,” Mr. Li said, referring to Google’s China woes.
Apart from possible future competition from its foreign counterparts, Baidu’s bottom line is also taking a hit from the 20-billion-yuan ($3 billion) domestic battle to link Internet users to offline services such as food delivery and movie ticketing, dragging its 2015 third-quarter profit down 27% despite an increase in revenue.
Mr. Li also said he worried that Baidu’s search engine, the company’s current core business, would one day become useless as the Chinese public comes to rely more heavily on mobile applications rather than browser-based Web search.
Among China’s Web users, 620 million people, or 90.1%, had mobile access to the Internet in 2015, according to a recently released report.
The footage aired on CCTV shows the American-educated chief executive officer onstage at the company’s summer party, flashing a cheeky smile at times, speaking quickly to his colleagues in Chinese and frequently tossing in an English word or two.
A female Baidu employee told the CCTV reporter that the company’s staff viewed Mr. Li as a “man god.”
But the “man god” acknowledged that he has been deeply worried about the company’s operations and fears that some small startups might have the potential to threaten Baidu’s core business.
“In regard to those (startups) you think are nothing and haven’t been paying attention to, your judgment might be wrong,” Mr. Li said. “They could be growing bigger and getting closer to your core business — and they might eventually subvert you.”
Text: The Wall Street Journal by Yang Jie 15-02-2016