TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Doug Krizner: Google is the dominate players in Internet searches in this country. But in China, it’s a different story. The search engine Baidu dominates with about 70 percent of the Chinese market. So if you’re Google, this might be a losing battle.
Let’s bring in Dawn Chmielewski of the Los Angeles Times. She traveled to China to find out more about Baidu. Look for her forthcoming feature in the L.A. Times. She joins us from our studio in Shanghai. Dawn, what’s so unique about Baidu?
Dawn Chmielewski: The thing that most intrigued me about Baidu was it’s so aware of its market. I mean, here in China, many of the people who have access to the Internet and high-speed Internet are young people — people in their 20’s and 30’s. These are people who are perhaps in college or just out of college. And Baidu knows this. And so Baidu delivers the sorts of things that you might imagine that market wants. You know, delivering downloadable music files, to goofy top 10 lists, to something called Baidu Space, which is very similar to MySpace in the United States, so an online community. It just seems to address any kind of need that a 20-something might have. Predominantly, what they’re looking for is entertainment.
Krizner: With what we know about censorship in China, how is the content you find on Baidu different from the results offered by Google?
Chmielewski: I asked that question and they gave me a somewhat stiff answer. Here’s how it plays out here in China: If you do a search for a term that’s forbidden — say, Falon Gong, which is a religion that’s not, you’re not permitted to research on the Internet — Google will return results, along with a disclaimer that says “Because of local government regulations, we’re not showing you everything.” Baidu simply returns results. And I’m told from analysts who cover the search community that people here in China really take umbrage to Google’s sanctimonious, sort of finger-in-the-eye approach to search. So the government structures, ironically, seem to play in the favor of Baidu.
Krizner: In terms of the growth of the Internet right now, how is the market saturated, and is there a lot of upside, do you think here, for the use of the Internet?
Chmielewski: It turns out that about 160 million people have access to the Internet out of 1.3 billion people. So the Internet really is just getting started here.
Krizner: Dawn Chmielewski is a reporter for the L.A. Times. We’ve been speaking to Dawn from our studio in Shanghai. Dawn, thanks so much for talking with us. Look forward to your return.
Chmielewski: Thanks so much, Doug.
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