French search engine entering China market

French search engine Qwant said on Tuesday that it will tap into the Chinese market and will set up its official website in China in the coming four or five months, as the two countries further strengthen their cooperation in emerging fields including technology.

Qwant will set up its first office in the Xiangcheng district of Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province, with support from the local government, and will cooperate with more than 30 partners from both China and abroad on artificial intelligence to optimize the search engine in China.

The move came during French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit from Monday to Wednesday, his first China visit since assuming office last May, as part of broader efforts to strengthen ties between the two nations.

"We target our user group at foreigners in China. Unlike other search engines in China, we will provide them a wider range of neutral information," Eric Leandri, chairman and co-founder of Qwant, said in an interview with China Daily.

The company claimed that it has a strict privacy policy and does not collect data from its users, nor will it put any cookie on users' browsers that may allow others to recognize the users or to follow users everywhere on the internet.

The Paris-based company has more than 52 million visitors worldwide and accounts for around 4 percent of the French search engine market, where Google makes up for the majority.

"Chinese market is huge and smart with the internet industry developing at an unprecedented speed," said Frederic Derbaudrenghien, CEO of EU SINO, a business consulting group and a partner of Qwant.

"Another point we notice is that in recent years, the government has made greater efforts in protecting intellectual property rights and created a well-rounded business environment."

The startup has already made open search with more than 210 Chinese companies and will give some of them access to switching directly from the page of Qwant to their official websites. It has also joined hands with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and bought servers from Huawei.

Speaking of Qwant's future plan, Leandri said: "In the future, we will open more offices in Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and will boost cooperation with Chinese partners to offer a better search engine. On a broader scope, we aim to win 5 to 10 percent of the total European market."