Baidu will show an alternative to the official picture of China’s economy


Chinese Internet search engine Baidu will start to use information about the search queries of its users to create multiple indexes on the Chinese economy, reports Bloomberg. Broad coverage of audience should help form a more complete picture of the labor market and consumer demand in China in comparison with the official data of Beijing.

Company Baidu has a monopoly in the market of web services of China. In the first quarter of 2016, the monthly Baidu services used 663 million people with smartphones, despite the fact that by the end of 2015 there were a total of 688 million Internet users that access the Network with computers and mobile devices. Advertising revenue among search engines in the Chinese market, Baidu took almost 81% ($8.5 billion with a total revenue of Baidu last year, about $10.5 billion).

By its position, Baidu is able to collect statistical data on its users to create several macroeconomic indices, according to Bloomberg. Roughly from the end of June or beginning of July, the company will prepare monthly reports on unemployment and consumer spending. For more detailed information, Baidu will be sold to interested customers.

When compiling statistics, the company will consider not only search queries, but the location makes them user, and anonymous user data received from the business and shopping centers and industrial parks. With an integrated approach Baidu expects to draw a picture clarifying the situation about layoffs at any factory or of the popularity of a cinema.

In combination with demographic data (age and gender of customers), regional news, reducing the number of active users in a particular city and other factors, Baidu plans to use advanced statistics as a tool for business — for example, if a company is considering to open an office in a particular province.

Analysis of the data and selling it to clients as a B2B may become an alternative to government statistics. “The economy is slowing, but data on unemployment are published by the authorities, remains in the region of 4%. So many people treat these figures with suspicion,” said Bloomberg Baidu senior specialist data processing At Haishan station.

According to the National Bureau of statistics of China, in the first quarter of 2016, the unemployment rate made up 4.05%, slightly below 4.1%, regularly recorded for the last six years. Beijing is not telling the truth intentionally, he just is not enough data, said Shanghai economist Zhang Jun. According to him, the unemployment rate only reflects the percentage of the economically active urban population seeking to the government for aid.

However, unsystematic approach to the issue of benefits and flawed system of re-employment deprives many Chinese of the intention to apply to the authorities for benefits, said Zhang. Using the application data (e.g., surveys households), some experts argue that the real unemployment rate in the cities of China reaches almost 11%.