Baidu CEO reportedly tells staff that 'winter is coming' in new year letter

Baidu's chief executive Robin Li had a cold warning for employees as they started 2019.

"Winter is coming," Li warned in a letter sent to staff at the Chinese search engine Wednesday, according to a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

He counseled that economic restructuring is "as cold and real as winter to every company" but said this would also provide opportunities to Baidu.

"Only when the year grows cold do we see the qualities of the pine and the cypress," Li wrote, referencing a Chinese proverb about evergreen plants. "It's high time that Baidu stepped forward as a platform company," he added, according to the SCMP report.

Li also said that Artificial intelligence (AI) would help Baidu's customers bring down costs, as the "historical transformation of AI is penetrating various industries, unleashing enormous growth potential and room for upgrade."

The China-U.S. trade war is taking its toll, with growth estimates for China cut from 6.5 percent to 6.3 percent for 2019 with companies including Apple, Ford and Intel concerned about the country's economic health.

Baidu – often seen as China's Google – was founded by Li in 2000 and makes most of its revenue from advertising. It posted a 27 percent growth in third-quarter revenue in October to 28.2 billion yuan ($4.11 billion), and Li's staff letter said Baidu's 2018 revenue had exceeded 100 billion yuan ($14.6 billion).