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McClatchy Newspapers, Published July 05 2011

Microsoft in deal with Chinese Web search leader Baidu

BEIJING — China's leading search engine, Baidu, has signed a deal with Microsoft Corp.'s Bing to offer English-language search capabilities to Baidu users.

The agreement, which was announced Monday, comes more than a year after Google Inc. pulled out of China, largely over disagreements about censorship.

Baidu has long struggled to match Google's English-language search capabilities and is expected to introduce Bing by the end of the year, albeit a version that will have to adhere to the country's ever-expanding censorship rules.

The overwhelming majority of Baidu users access the search engine for Chinese results. The company commands 83 percent of the search market in China, the world's largest Internet community with 470 million users.

“It's a non-trivial matter to build your own index of English pages, so why not partner with someone who already does that well?” said Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman for Baidu. “It's all about serving the needs of our users.”

Kuo said the deal could also make Baidu more competitive in search markets outside China.

“We'll learn quite a bit,” he said. “And that certainly will help us venture into other markets with our core search product.”

The deal gives Bing a foothold in China, where its presence is currently negligible.

Edward Yu, head of Analysys International, a consulting firm specializing in the Chinese Web industry, said Microsoft was more adept at navigating Chinese politics than Google ever was.

“Given the length of its operations in China, Microsoft is very familiar with how to keep a good relationship with the Chinese government,” Yu said. “They're much more experienced than Google, and they're much more skillful than Google in this regard.”

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.