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Devious Ways: Baidu Stature Rises on PMI Board Pick

229637377_0aa65809b0Source: The Street

Philip Morris International(PM) (PMI) has chosen Baidu’s(BIDU) chief financial officer Jennifer Li to join its board as an independent director — making Li the first woman ever from China to join an S&P 500 company as a director, according to the Financial Times.

This also makes Li the fourth Chinese executive to be picked for a director role at an S&P 500 firm. Li told the FT, “I hope to learn new perspectives and best practices that I can apply and contribute to Baidu’s long-term growth and to the Chinese business community.”

Philip Morris’s decision to bring Li on board likely reflects its hope of gaining a greater foothold China — currently it has a relatively small presence in the country — which comprises 40% of the global tobacco market, excluding the US, the FT reported.

Li joined Baidu in 2008 as chief financial officer after serving as the controller of GMAC’s North American operations, where she led a staff of 200 in the U.S. and Canada. Li has held several other finance positions at General Motors in China, Singapore, the U.S. and Canada in a 13-year period.

Baidu’s prominence as an Internet search provider came to fore recently as its main competitor in China, Google(GOOG), decided to exit the country following an ongoing censorship dispute with China.

Many, including TheStreet readers, felt it was a bad decision for Google to leave a land of 400 million Internet users, but good for Baidu’s business. Shortly after Google’s departure, Baidu’s price target was raised by Goldman Sachs. Google has attempted to redirect its mainland China traffic to its Hong Kong-based search engine, but has been experiencing technical glitches as a result that are hurting its attempts to redirect the traffic.

Many suspect that the Chinese government is behind this and other problems that foreign journalists have reportedly been having with their Yahoo!(YHOO) accounts in China.

A recent poll by TheStreet comparing Google and Baidu in the former’s fray with the Chinese government indicates that a great majority of our readers believes that Baidu will emerge as the winner of that fray.

— Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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