BAIDU, INC. filed this Form 20-F on 03/31/2017
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definition of FIE, it may be subject to foreign investment “restrictions” or “prohibitions” set forth in a “negative list” to be separately issued by the State Council later. If an FIE proposes to conduct business in an industry subject to foreign investment “restrictions” in the “negative list,” the FIE must go through a market entry clearance by the Ministry of Commerce before being established. If an FIE proposes to conduct business in an industry subject to foreign investment “prohibitions” in the “negative list,” it must not engage in the business. However, an FIE, during the market entry clearance process, may apply in writing to be treated as a PRC domestic enterprise if its foreign investor(s) is/are ultimately “controlled” by PRC government authorities and its affiliates and/or PRC citizens. In this connection, “control” is broadly defined in the draft to cover the following summarized categories: (i) holding 50% of more of the voting rights of the subject entity; (ii) holding less than 50% of the voting rights of the subject entity but having the power to secure at least 50% of the seats on the board or other equivalent decision making bodies, or having the voting power to exert material influence on the board, the shareholders’ meeting or other equivalent decision making bodies; or (iii) having the power to exert decisive influence, via contractual or trust arrangements, over the subject entity’s operations, financial matters or other key aspects of business operations.

The “variable interest entity” structure, or VIE structure, has been adopted by many PRC-based companies, including us, to obtain necessary licenses and permits in the industries that are currently subject to foreign investment restrictions in China. See “—Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure” and “Item 4.C. Information on the Company—Organizational Structure—Contractual Arrangements with Our Consolidated Affiliated Entities and the Nominee Shareholders.” Under the draft Foreign Investment Law, variable interest entities that are controlled via contractual arrangement would also be deemed as FIEs, if they are ultimately “controlled” by foreign investors. Therefore, for any companies with a VIE structure in an industry category that is included in the “negative list” as restricted industry, the VIE structure may be deemed legitimate only if the ultimate controlling person(s) is/are of PRC nationality (either PRC government authorities and its affiliates or PRC citizens). Conversely, if the actual controlling person(s) is/are of foreign nationalities, then the variable interest entities will be treated as FIEs and any operation in the industry category on the “negative list” without market entry clearance may be considered as illegal.

Through our dual-class share structure, Mr. Robin Yanhong Li, our chairman, chief executive officer and principal shareholder, a PRC citizen, possessed and controlled 54.3% of the voting power of our company as of February 28, 2017. The draft Foreign Investment Law has not taken a position on what actions will be taken with respect to the existing companies with a VIE structure, whether or not these companies are controlled by Chinese parties. Moreover, it is uncertain whether the internet, value-added telecommunication-based online advertising, online audio and video services and mobile application distribution businesses, in which our variable interest entities operate, will be subject to the foreign investment restrictions or prohibitions set forth in the “negative list” to be issued. If the enacted version of the Foreign Investment Law and the final “negative list” mandate further actions, such as Ministry of Commerce market entry clearance, to be completed by companies with existing VIE structure like us, we face uncertainties as to whether such clearance can be timely obtained, or at all.

The draft Foreign Investment Law, if enacted as proposed, may also materially impact our corporate governance practice and increase our compliance costs. For instance, the draft Foreign Investment Law imposes stringent ad hoc and periodic information reporting requirements on foreign investors and the applicable FIEs.

Regulation and censorship of information disseminated over the internet in China may adversely affect our business, and subject us to liability for information displayed on or linked to our websites and negative publicity in international media.

The PRC government has adopted regulations governing internet access and distribution of news and other information over the internet. Under these regulations, internet content providers and internet publishers are prohibited from posting or displaying over the internet content that, among other things, violates PRC laws and regulations, impairs the national dignity of China, contains terrorism or extremism content, or is reactionary, obscene, superstitious, fraudulent or defamatory. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in the