Search engine will do its own reporting

BEIJING — China’s top search engine, Baidu, has won approval to become an online news portal, intensifying competition in the world’s second-largest Internet market.

The State Council Information Office, one of China’s Web regulators, granted Baidu the license last week, according to media reports.

This will make Baidu the first online search engine here to do its own reporting rather than just show news search results. The country’s largest Web site,, was given a news license a few years ago and carries its own reports.

With news of the license, Baidu tweaked its site to replace the word “information” with “news,” as well as launching a recruitment drive for editors.

Information industry analysts say this will give Baidu an edge over competitors, opening up new ad revenue streams as Baidu is used as a portal as well as a search engine.

The government is relaxing controls on foreign media in the runup to the 2008 Olympics, but it still keeps a tight rein on domestic news, particularly political stories that could undermine stability.

Many search terms, including words such as “Tibet,” are routinely blocked.

The world’s top search engine, Google, was strongly criticized a year ago for bowing to Chinese government pressure to block politically sensitive terms on its Chinese site.

The number of Internet users in China jumped 23.4% to 137 million at the end of 2006 compared to the previous year, according to data released Tuesday by the China Internet Information Center, a unit of the Ministry of Information Industry.

This makes it the second largest market for Internet use after the U.S.

Some 17 million people use their cell phones to go online, and 104 million have broadband Internet access, the report added.

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