I thought I’d share a useful little table from the Wikipedia article “Digital Divide in the People’s Republic of China“. The regional tables are very interesting in that they quite starkly show differential development.
For example the East of China has 14% internet penetration while the rest of the country averages 6.7% – so twice the proportion. What’s bigger is the ratio of domain names per 10,000 people (5 to 1) and the websites per 10,000 people (6 to 1). This means that outside the East they are largely consumers. It also indicates that a higher proportion of Eastern internet users are home users rather than work or cafe surfers (thus more likely to maintain personal sites).
This is not surprising as the east of China is more prosperous (and urban and commercial). So the growth of the Chinese internet may be uneven – as the Middle and Western China become more connected – although the higher proportion of people in rural areas may slow this down somewhat.
This indicates that, yes, Baidu is still in there for the long term – as these users will tend to go to Baidu rather than the foreign Google or Yahoo. It also indicates that the market may be changing – with lower volume items that are easier to ship inland rather than, say, cars. It may be interesting to see if these areas where saving is high are open to foreign investments (although that last bit is more an educated guess than deep seated analysis).