Chinese search engine Baidu, like its global rival Google, celebrates major holidays with special doodles. On March 8 — which is International Women's Day and also the meeting of China's National People's Congress and its National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference — Baidu chose to break tradition, celebrating with CCP iconography instead of a celebration of women:
Baidu's 2021 Women's Day celebration.Protocol/Shen Lu
The meetings, called the "Two Sessions"(两会) in China, convene each year in early March. Several CEOs of Chinese tech companies are members of the political conference. Major content-oriented sites and portals in China, including Tencent, Bilibili and 36Kr all pledge loyalty to the Party by changing their homepage banners to variations of the Great Hall of the People, where the Two Sessions are held.
Baidu used to be different. Since 2009, the company has published a special logo each March 8 honoring women, with mixed success. In 2015, Baidu's March 8 doodle — a rotating ballerina that turned into a bride and then a mother with a stroller — unleashed a storm of criticism on social media. Baidu has since been more mindful in its choice of imagery. Here are its Women's Day Doodles dating back to 2012:
Although a doodle of women doesn't translate to actual gender equality within the tech company nor in China, web users say the optics still matter. To some, Baidu's sudden shift toward CCP iconography signals the Party State's tightened grip on Big Tech.