Sina's (Nasdaq: SINA) Weibo is turning heads as China's fast-growing microblogging website, but it's not alone. Chinese search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) is off to a strong start with a new site that blends the microblogging allure of Twitter with the viral nature of Facebook.

The sticky site has attracted a million registered users since Baidu's closed beta launch three months ago.

The site -- which loosely translates as Baidu Talk -- supposedly sets itself apart from existing social sites by verifying user identities. Real names in restrictive China? A hit? Go figure.

The booming popularity of Weibo and the initial success of Baidu Talk may seem foreign -- literally and figuratively -- to stateside investors. After all, Google and Yahoo! have largely flopped when they try to roll out new Web 2.0 sites. They have been left with little choice but to try to acquire dot-com darlings, yet ultimately come up short in their bids for Facebook, Twitter, and most recently Groupon.

Baidu is more "buy" than "do" on that front. It even introduced a Groupon-esque group-buying site a few weeks ago.

Maybe it's the success of China's online giants in Web 2.0 initiatives that attracted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to visit with the CEOs of both Sina and Baidu in China last week. The world's most populous nation plays favorites, with the government and Chinese consumers typically flocking to homegrown favorites.

Investors should also keep this in mind when evaluating the upside of China's dot-com leaders. They may be geographically limited in their appeal, but their impact could be greater than simply paid search for Baidu and display advertising for Sina. Pair up the China-specific elbowroom and the country's low yet growing Internet penetration rate, and there's more to China's online leaders than you probably think.

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