google_cn.gif[UPDATED] Google is reportedly to set up a JV with in a move which consolidates the search giant's presence in China but is hardly likely to shake-off its image as an also-ran in China's fast-growing internet market.

Google already has a partnership with, a leading Chinese portal, and uses the latter's licence to operate the Chinese version of its search engine,, which is often criticised for censoring sites. uses as its search engine.

According to this XFN-Asia report, Google is expected to set up an new JV with to formalise this partnership and allow it to meet China's rules which require foreign companies offering internet services to have an Internet Content Provider licence.

China is the fastest growing internet market, second only to the US, with around 123m users but Google appears to be playing for time by letting, the home-grown rival, make all the running.

Baidu is more popular than either Google or Yahoo! and it has more than half the local market. It recently signed a deal with Viacom, the US media giant, that allows Baidu to use TV and music video content from MTV Networks.

.Much of the 15,000 hours of MTV content will be dubbed and tailored to Chinese viewers, with popular regional artists also featured. Hardly to my taste, but its surprising that Google hasn't found a similar ways to make its service more appealing to Chinese internet surfers, whose demographic profile is quite distinct from that in the west.

Earlier this year Google unveiled Google Book Search China, a worthy-but-dull initiative described in this earlier EngagingChina story.

UPDATE: Perhaps the answer is for Google to buy Nasdaq-listed Baidu — with $10bn in cash the US search giant could easily could easily afford it. This rumour has been doing the rounds for some time and predictably resurfaced today following Baidu's results, which revealed record earnings.

However, Google this year sold the 2% stake it had acquired in Baidu prior to the latter's US IPO, so I guess Google can wait.

More on Google China and in this Business Week story.

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