SHANGHAI, Oct 10 (Reuters) - China's top Web search firm Baidu.com Inc (BIDU.O) plans to launch a research and development centre in Shanghai as early as this year, an industry source said on Wednesday, as it seeks to fend off rival Google (GOOG.O) in the world's second-largest Web market.
Baidu -- which is ramping up a fledgling Japanese service and investing $15 million in Asia's largest economy -- is also preparing to launch an R&D centre in Tokyo after the Shanghai centre, said the source, who was briefed on the plan.
Baidu had launched a recruitment drive for its research and development centre in Shanghai and was seeking to hire engineers for product testing, the source said.
"Baidu has hired a head-hunting agency to help it to look for experienced talent for its Shanghai R&D centre," she said.
"The Shanghai R&D centre will be officially launched this year while the Tokyo one may come out later."
Baidu spokespeople declined to comment on the timeframe for opening the centre in Shanghai, or how many people the company eventually hoped to employ.
Baidu has posted a notice on its company Web site (hr.baidu.com) to encourage Chinese university graduates to apply for job openings, including for testing engineers at its Shanghai R&D centre.
Google, which opened an engineering research centre in Shanghai this year, told Reuters last week that it was closing the gap with Baidu in China, after years of trying to increase market share in China.
Google has gained more market share in China after it announced its partnership with Sina Corp (SINA.O), a major Chinese Internet portal. It has also recently formed another partnership with popular Web site Tianya.cn.
Baidu led China's market in the second quarter with a 58.1 percent share, but rising only about 1 percentage point from the previous quarter's 57 percent, while Google gained a 22.8 percent market share, up around 4 percentage points from the previous quarter, according to Analysys International.
With over 162 million Web users, China is the world's largest Internet market, after the United States.