The internet in China
State television fires on China’s Google
Aug 27th 2011 | from the print edition
LAST year Google remembered its motto (“Don’t be evil”) and stopped co-operating with China’s censors. Since then, Google has found it much harder to do business in mainland China. The chief beneficiary was Baidu, China’s leading search engine. Its share of internet searches, already vast, grew to a dominant 75%.
Robin Li, Baidu’s Chinese-born, American-educated co-founder, is only 42 but one of China’s richest men. That makes him a target, despite his scrupulous efforts not to upset the ruling Communist Party. Since August 14th Baidu has been the subject of a series of damning investigative reports on CCTV, the main state-run broadcaster. Using undercover cameras, CCTV exposed Baidu employees apparently helping firms circumvent laws that bar unlicensed companies from advertising online. The reports also suggested that the lack of transparency in Baidu’s advertising system could lead advertisers to overpay. A Baidu spokesman refused to comment.
It was not the first time that CCTV has bashed Baidu. Reports in 2008 made similar allegations, prompting Baidu to apologise publicly. The latest attacks go further, though. It might seem a bit rich for the state broadcaster of a secretive, authoritarian country to chide Baidu for murkiness. And it certainly surprises some China-watchers. Baidu has done all it can to comply with the government’s whims. It is also a national champion: its shares are listed on New York’s NASDAQ exchange, and foreigners can’t get enough of them.