China's largest search engine operator, Baidu, has signed a deal with Microsoft's Bing to offer English language search to Baidu users, in a move which could take yet another chunk out of Google's share of the fast-growing internet search market.

Baidu has 76 per cent of the Chinese search market compared to Google's 20 per cent, if you count visits to offshore sites, according to Analysys International. Google's marketshare has slipped after it officially left China last January because of concerns about censorship.

But Bing appears to have none of the "misguided sanctimony" that Baidu's Kaiser Kuo accused Google of, as its search results are already censored in China and will continue to be monitored under the new agreement with Microsoft.

A tie-up with Baidu should also boost Bing's Chinese business, which has a share of less than 1 per cent of the market, as even though English language search is marginal at the moment, it has the potential to grow.

Kuo told tech blog Penn-Olsen that Baidu had not done well at English language results in the past and that as people became "more urban and sophisticated" they'll be more likely to search in English.

The company has also been rumoured to be considering a joint venture with Facebook. Analysts think that Baidu would help the social networking site, which is currently banned in China, understand the Chinese government better and how to self-censor.

As well as expanding in China, some of the major Chinese internet companies including Tencent and Sohu are increasingly interested in gaining foreign audiences as competition at home also rises. Last month, Sina said it would launch its microblog, or weibo, in English by the end of the year.

So far, Baidu's international ambitions focus on non-English language search. As FT Tilt reported earlier, it hopes to use its expertise in creating algorithms for Chinese characters to help it enter markets with other tricky non-roman alphabets.

See also:
Foreign internet companies in China must think local - FT Tilt
China's biggest internet companies hope to dominate EM - FT Tilt
Full coverage of Baidu - FT Tilt
Full coverage of the Chinese internet - FT Tilt