'Winter is coming' for Chinese economy, warns search giant Baidu's CEO

But he still expects growth in AI.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou

Robin Yanhong Li, CEO of Baidu, says the company will focus on AI to help it through tough times.

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The new year's pep talk delivered by Baidu's chief executive for 2019 was a bit chilly. 

Robin Yanhong Li, CEO of China's largest search engine, warned that "winter is coming" in a letter to employees regarding China's economic growth slowing down, according to South China Morning Post. Baidu is the equivalent of Google in China.

Economic restructuring is "as cold and real as winter to every company," Li reportedly wrote Wednesday to staff. But "historical transformation of [artificial intelligence] is penetrating various various industries, unleashing enormous growth potential and room for upgrade."

Li also reportedly told employees through a famous Chinese proverb -- "Only when the year grows cold do we see the qualities of the pine and the cypress" -- that Baidu will step up its game and come out stronger while other companies are struggling to cope with the changing economic landscape in China.

Baidu didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The "winter" talk isn't new in China. The world's second largest economy is slowing down faster than expected, according to a Wall Street Journal report in October. The report said China's exports, economic performance and effects from the US-China trade war were all factors that contributed to Chinese market's foreseeable "winter."

"It's high time that Baidu stepped forward," Li reportedly said.