Baidu, a Google look-alike, has largely clobbered Google in China, despite giving up some ground in recent years. And Taobao.com, China’s huge e-commerce site, handled nearly $30 billion in transactions last year.
The story behind the success of these companies is a simple one, some analysts say. The young people who dominate Web use in China are not just searching for information; they’re searching for a lifestyle. They are passionate about downloading music, playing online games and engaging in social networking.
“Sixty percent of the Internet users here are under the age of 30,” said Richard Ji, an Internet analyst at Morgan Stanley. “In the U.S., it’s the other way around. And in the U.S. it’s about information. But in China, the No. 1 priority is entertainment.”
Experts say American companies have largely failed here because they don’t have local expertise, are too slow to adapt and don’t know how to deal with the Chinese government.
“Internet companies in China have to work so closely with the government,” said Xiao Qiang, of the China Internet project at the University of California, Berkeley. “And that means the government’s political agenda can become the company’s business agenda.”