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            21 / 12 / 16

            ​Comparing the top Baidu and Google searches of 2016

            • Web search giants Baidu and Google have shared their most searched terms for 2016 and, like last year, their lack of overlap is remarkable. Separated linguistically, culturally and technologically, the Chinese Internet remains largely distinct from the wider world web. Despite clunky soft power pushes such as derided Matt Damon vehicle The Great Wall, Chinese culture and companies are struggling to break into global consciousness.

            • Apart from the number one search term, “The Rio Olympic Games” and an emerging interest in “artificial intelligence”, Baidu’s list of “keywords” skewed (suspiciously) away from pop culture and towards domestic policy. Searches for house prices, the car license plate lottery, taxes, the hukou (household registration) system, anti-corruption and the new two-child policy all made Baidu’s list.

              “Pokemon Go” was the most searched term on Google globally this year — a game still unavailable in Mainland China — followed by “iPhone 7” and “Donald Trump”.

              Another primarily Chinese issue, the “South China Sea Arbitration”, was the number one “international event” searched on Baidu, though the US election and Brexit, events that ranked first and third on Google’s “Global News” list, both made it into the Chinese search engine’s top five. The US election also impacted the most searched people in China, with Donald Trump coming in fifth and Hillary Clinton ninth.

              There was, however, no Chinese contribution to Google’s global top 10 search terms, top 10 global news events, top 10 people, or top 10 “losses”, a list of celebrities who passed away in 2016 that was topped by Prince and David Bowie. Baidu’s list of “tear jerkers” was topped by Muhammed Ali’s death, which ranked fifth on Google’s list. Testament to China’s basketball fanaticism, Kobe Bryant’s retirement was Baidu’s fourth highest ranking “tear jerker”.

            • Beating out comedian Papi Jiang and alleged cuckold Wang Baoqiang to rank number one on Baidu’s people list was Korean actor Song Joong-ki, the lead in K-drama Descendants of the Sun, which topped Baidu’s list of most searched TV shows.

              All of the other TV shows, all 10 songs and eight of the ten most searched movies on Baidu were Chinese. The international exceptions were Zootopia (third) and Captain America: Civil War (ninth). Warcraft was a hit in China, but it didn’t make either search engine’s top 10.

              The West’s golden age of TV made little headway here with Stranger Things (Google global rank 1), Westworld (2), Game of Thrones (4) and Black Mirror (5) all failing to find a place in Baidu’s top ten.

              No Chinese movie, TV show, musician or consumer tech made it into the Google global top ten.

              While none of her songs made it into either search engine’s top 10 lists this year, The BBC has tipped Jane Zhang (张靓颖), singer of “Dust My Shoulders Off”, as someone who could break into global superstardom in 2017. It's a cool video, but shanzhai Taylor Swift doesn't have half the mystic energy of Fu Yuanhui.

              NB: Three of the global terms on Google's lists were searched in a language other than English:

              • tenth-ranked global news event the Kumamoto Earthquake was searched in Japanese/Chinese (
              • fifth-ranked musician Dean Fujioka was searched in Japanese ( “ディーン フジオカ”), and
              • ninth-ranked TV show Descendants of the Sun was searched in traditional Chinese (“太陽的後裔”).
              • Article by Sam Gaskin