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China plans to create a government-controlled online search engine– would compete with Baidu.com

Posted by Author on August 14, 2010

By DAVID BARBOZA, The New York Times, August 13, 2010 –

SHANGHAI — In an apparent bid to extend its control over the Internet and cash in on the rapid growth of mobile devices, China plans to create a government-controlled search engine.

The new venture would compete with Baidu.com, a private company that runs China’s dominant search engine. Baidu’s market has grown since Google retreated from the mainland earlier this year.

The state-owned China Mobile — the world’s biggest cellphone carrier — and Xinhua, China’s official state-run news agency, signed an agreement on Thursday to create a joint venture called the Search Engine New Media International Communications Company.

China already has the world’s largest number of Internet users, more than 420 million, and also the largest number of mobile phone subscribers, with more than 800 million.

Private start-up companies play a big role on the Web in China, but the government maintains tight control over Internet companies and censors content that it deems dangerous or sensitive.

Now, though, analysts say that Beijing is pushing state-run companies to take a more active role online. China Central Television, the nation’s dominant broadcaster, is trying to develop an online video site. Xinhua News Agency is trying to build a global platform of news providers using television and the Internet.

At the announcement of the joint venture in Beijing on Thursday, Zhou Xisheng, vice president of Xinhua, said the new company would build a leading search engine platform. But he also said the move was “part of the country’s broader efforts to safeguard its information security and push forward the robust, healthy and orderly development of China’s new media industry.”

Representatives of Baidu could not be reached for comment. …...(more details from New York Times)

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