Baidu's Billionaire CEO Declares He Can Beat Google Again

(Bloomberg) -- The billionaire founder of China’s top internet search engine has declared he will fight fiercely and “win again” should Alphabet Inc.’s Google decide to return to the world’s largest internet arena.

Baidu Inc. Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said on social media he’s confident of combating Google if needed, his first public response to reports the U.S. search titan is plotting a return to a market it largely pulled out of in 2010. Li’s post, to friends via his personal WeChat account, comes as Baidu’s shares have slid about 6 percent since the Intercept reported Google was designing a censored search engine to deploy in China within a year.

“We can now, with real knives and real guns, PK them again, win again,” Li wrote, using a term that’s come to mean compete against. “In 2010, when Google withdrew from China, its market share was declining and Baidu’s market share had exceeded 70 percent.”

Google is looking at ways to re-enter China, home to the biggest pool of internet users, through a search app that complies with Chinese censorship as well as partnerships with local companies, people familiar with the matter have said. After withdrawing, most of its services were blocked in the country. News of a potential return have been met with resistance from employees and criticism from human rights advocates and lawmakers.

Li also referenced a commentary by the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, which welcomed Google’s return as long as it abided by local rules and regulations on censorship. Chinese tech giants are constantly censored with posts deemed harmful to social order quickly erased from public view.

The People’s Daily story was later removed from its website, as well as the state-run newspaper’s Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Li argued China’s market had gone through “earth-shaking changes” since Google’s departure, adding that Chinese technology companies were now leaders in solving new problems. “The world is copying from China,” he posted. “This is something every company wanting to enter the China market must carefully consider and face.”

(An earlier version of this story corrected the language in the second paragraph.)

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