Can China’s internet firms balance nationalism with global dreams?

It was a small flag on a small island in cyberspace.But for Baidu, China’s biggest search engine company, the pixelated land grab could complicate its plans for global expansion and attempts to take on Google.The flag appeared at the height of a recent clash between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea.Tempers were flaring, and in many Chinese cities people took to the streets after Japan controversially bought the islands. The mobs targeted Japanese brands with attacks on retail stores and car showrooms.On 18 September, as the nationalistic cries reached a climax on the street, Baidu put up an image on its homepage of the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, with a flag claiming them as China’s territory.Clicking on the image took users to a separate page that read: “The Diaoyu islands belong to China.”Users could then plant their own digital versions of the Chinese flags on the islands.

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