Last week, reports surfaced that Google is planning to return to China with censored apps alongside talks about bringing cloud services over as well. Naturally, its biggest rival in China has something to say about that. Baidu CEO Robin Li wrote on his verified WeChat account that if “Google decides to return to China, we are very confident we can just PK and win again.” By PK, he was referencing “player-kill,” Chinese slang that originated as a gaming reference for when you kill another player, usually in a multiplayer role-playing game.
Both companies offer search engine services, cloud services, and develop AI for use within their products. They also develop hardware products, but search is their biggest overlap.
Li writes that Chinese tech companies have grown even more powerful since Google left China in 2010 after it began to challenge censored search results. “Chinese tech companies have already taken the lead... The whole world is copying from China,” he wrote. After Google vacated, Baidu absorbed its market share for a total of over 70 percent of the Chinese market.
Yet despite Li’s confidence, internet users commenting on Weibo appear to prefer Google over Baidu. Many commented on Li’s post that they would gladly uninstall Baidu and start using Google if it was allowed back in China. An internet poll on Weibo suggested that 86 percent of users would pick Google over Baidu. When Google was still in China, its search results would often differ from Baidu’s and were thought to be more accurate and slightly less censored.
When news that Google was considering returning to China appeared, Baidu’s stock price fell 7.7 percent. As of this writing, it continues a downward trend, declining 2.67 percent from yesterday’s high.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment. Baidu confirmed that Li’s social media post was legitimate to The Verge but declined to further comment.
Update August 7th, 12:40PM ET: This article has been updated after hearing back from Baidu.