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Baidu 'Better' in Battle for China?

It's East vs. West in the Chinese search engine race with the nod going to local favorite Baidu over Google , according to a study published Wednesday by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

The CNNIC report, which is published by the Chinese government, is the first of several on search engine preferences, by city, of citizens within the populous country -- Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The report published Wednesday tallied the overall search engine preferences of the three cities but intitially provided demographic information only on China's capital, Beijing, population 14.93 million.

In all three cities, Beijing-based Baidu topped Google in market share presence to varying degrees, according to the government-sponsored report.

  • Bejing - Baidu, 51.5 percent, Google, 32.9 percent
  • Shanghai - Baidu 43.9 percent, Google 38.2 percent
  • Guangzhou - Baidu 48 percent, Google 28.7 percent

The other search engines in the space -- Sina, Sohu and Yahoo -- collectively made up less than 25 percent in all three cities.

In Beijing Baidu has edged past Google because of its strong following with the "generation of cool," as the report's author, Weigang Lu, CNNIC senior analyst, noted. This generation is made up of Chinese users in junior and senior middle middle schools and university students.

Beijing students with a three-year university education or less made up 60 percent of Baidu's user base, compared with Google's 20.8 percent; for those with a four-year education and above, Baidu's market share slips to 41.9 percent over Google's 46.7 percent.

According to the report, 50 percent of Baidu users in China's capital come from middle school students, who use the search engine primarily to look for MP3 files for music. These students also play a big role in the other two cities surveyed, the report noted.

When it comes to MP3s, Baidu is king in Beijing. Almost 74 percent of those surveyed picked the local search engine, compared to Google's 14.7 percent. The search engine is also predominantly popular for searches on images and online games.

Where Google shines, however, is with high-end users -- those 25 years and older, college-educated, with a monthly income of $370 or more -- though only 19 percent of those surveyed for the report fell under this category.

In Beijing, high-end users overwhelmingly picked the Mountain View, Calif., company, 58.7 percent to Baidu's 27.9 percent. The demographics show that more education or bigger monthly salaries translated into more Google users.

For example, 72.2 percent of those with a postgraduate education or a doctorate chose Google, while bachelor's degree holders made up 49.4 percent; with income, 58.1 percent of those making more than $617 a month use Google, while only 20.8 percent of those making less than $123 a month were likely to favor Google.

Broken down by segment Google also fared better over Baidu in terms of use in businesses and government agencies in Beijing, with 44.7 percent and 45.7 percent.

Perhaps Google's name isn't translating well. According to the report, 60 percent of the interviewees agreed to take a spelling test: 23 percent got "Google" wrong.