SAN FRANCISCO – No. 1 search provider Google Inc. expressed confidence Monday that it can thrive in China, despite a recently released survey showing that the firm is struggling to make gains there against incumbent engine Inc.

Google is responding to a survey of 4,500 Internet users in China released last week by China Intelliconsulting. The survey concludes that in Beijing, Shanghai and Gungzhou, China’s most mature Internet markets, the search share of No. 1 engine Baidu climbed more than 13 percent since last year, and now stands at 65.4 percent of all Web-search queries.

Meanwhile, Google’s share of search in the three cities has so far dropped 12 percent this year to 20 percent, from last year’s 32 percent.

“We’re committed to Chinese users, and we will continue to have a strong presence in the China market,” a Google spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail received Monday. “We believe we know how to innovate and how to do it at scale.”

While the survey findings are rather dour and were not refuted by Google, the firm does see a bit of a silver lining. Survey participants expressed a lot of dissatisfaction with how well Chinese search engines perform, providing an opening for Google and others.

Yet Google’s apparent failure to grab a toehold in China is troubling to the company and its investors – mostly because the country is considered in some circles to be the world’s largest and most financially potent Internet community.

Indeed, there already are more Internet users in China than anywhere else in the world, yet the percentage of Chinese citizens with online access is still very small, signaling lots of room for to grow search engine share.

Intensifying concerns for Google is how much the company has sacrificed to gain more market share there.

Google’s reputation for not bowing to social or government demands has taken quite a hit, since it was disclosed in January that Google agreed to censor some search results from its Chinese engine at the behest of China’s government.

It’s since been criticized by several U.S. lawmakers and entities such as Reporters Without Borders, which also criticized Yahoo Inc. for cooperating with Chinese authorities.

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