Robin Li Yanhong, co-founder and chairman of China search engine giant Baidu, was speaking at a company event on connected cars and artificial intelligence in Beijing on Wednesday, when a man from the audience jumped on stage and poured a bottle of water over his head. Looking shocked, Li responded by saying “What’s your problem?”, before the man left the stage and was tackled by security. There were gasps from the audience and then sporadic applause as Li resumed his presentation, saying “there are many unexpected things in the development of AI too.” The motivation behind the man’s action was unclear . A spokesman for Baidu said the matter was under investigation. Li has come under pressure recently after the Beijing-based search engine operator reported its first-ever quarterly loss since going public in 2005. “2019 is not only a year of challenges, but also a year of opportunities. In the coming months and days, the whole Baidu family, from the senior management to all employees, must work hard and fight harder,” Li said in a memo last month , a copy of which was obtained by the Post . Baidu has had a stranglehold on search in China with 70 per cent of the market, especially after Google exited in 2010. But a shift in internet usage patterns has chipped at that dominance , with the rise of self-contained super-app ecosystems by rivals like Alibaba, the owner of the South China Morning Post , and Tencent. A user could quite easily watch a movie, read news, shop online and order takeaway food without having to leave one of these walled communities or go to a traditional search engine. A Sina Weibo user named “Zhi Nan Shang Shu” was suspected by Chinese netizens as being behind the attack on Li, as he recorded the entire event in his posts and had said earlier in the morning that he was “ready to go on stage”. According to the Weibo posts, which included pictures of train and Baidu event tickets, the attacker’s real name is Cheng Guanqi, and in one post he asks, “Xiaodu [referring to an artificial intelligence assistant embedded on a number of Baidu’s smart devices] - what will happen if I pour water over your boss’s head?” The stunt overshadowed the company’s showcasing of its latest AI technologies, including a new smart speaker, and the announcement of a strategic partnership with Geely Holding Group under which some of the Chinese carmaker’s vehicles will be equipped with Baidu’s DuerOS for Apollo, to power connected car solutions. Baidu also said it will launch the country’s biggest robotaxi fleet in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, with users able to hail a self-driving ride enabled by Baidu’s autonomous driving and intelligent road infrastructure technologies. Baidu’s push into AI comes as its traditional internet search business faces new challenges. T he rise of start-ups like ByteDance , with their AI recommendation-driven news and short-video apps Toutiao and Douyin, are challenging the original trio of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent – known commonly as BAT – for the attention and wallets of China’s more than 800 million internet users. Baidu has also come under fire for promoting its own content in search results. Baidu launched its Baijiahao platform in 2016, touted as the search giant’s answer to ByteDance’s Jinri Toutiao news aggregator and Tencent Holdings’ WeChat official accounts, giving independent publishers a platform while helping it generate more advertising revenue from online content. Two years on, the monetisation strategy has paid off, but Baijiahao’s advertising focus has angered some Chinese netizens who criticise the company for failing to provide a search service that provides useful results. “Baidu.com is no longer where you search for online content in Chinese, but an in-site search of its self-made content,” Fang Kecheng, a Chinese media researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said in an article posted on his public WeChat account earlier this year. “It’s no longer directing you to high-quality nourishment for minds, but [has become] a hoarder of decaying and deteriorated content.” Baidu, hand-picked by the Chinese government as a national champion in artificial intelligence , is banking on newer services such as newsfeed, short video, autonomous driving and its DuerOS AI service to remake itself into a mobile-driven AI-powered company.