The future's red

  • 23rd July, 2018

We might sound a little biased saying this, but China is probably the most exciting market for tech anywhere in the world at the moment (it certainly has some of the biggest numbers).

This is meaningful for two reasons: it's useful to know what technology platforms people are using in China if your goals are brand awareness and selling; and second, in mutually strong sectors such as AI and robotics there are exciting possibilities for companies in China and Britain to partner with one another.

The landscape in China changes quickly, and to make sense of it all Abacus - a new Asia tech publication - has helpfully published a China Internet Report that explains the big names and wider trends shaping China's technology.* Launched at RISE 2018 tech conference in Hong Kong, the report is comprehensive, covering everything from China's bike-sharing industry to PUBG: Exhilarating Battlefield downloads (if mobile gaming's your thing).

The report contains high-level stats that are predictably mind-blowing:

  • There are now 772 million internet users in China, or 55 percent of the overall population - that's roughly 12 times the entire population of the UK.
  • These internet users aren't just based in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. There is a rising number of internet users in rural China: now 209 million in 2018. 
  • Staggeringly, there are 527 million mobile payment users, or 37 percent of China's population. Put in other words, more than one-third of the entire population of China uses their mobile to make a payment.
  • Short video has exploded: as of March 2018 there were nearly 600 million in China using short video apps, led by Kuaishou and Tik Tok. Tik Tok (known in China as Douyin) in particular has had a terrific year: only launched in September 2017 it was the most downloaded iPhone app in 2018 - ahead of YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp.
  • Sina Weibo and WeChat are among the very biggest social networks in the world. Sina Weibo's monthly active users grew by more than 20 percent in 2018 over 2017 (to 411 million in Q1), and WeChat's users grew 11 percent to more than a billion in Q1.
  • The report shows that the use of WeChat mini programs has also shot up lately. In January this year most (52 per cent) of WeChat's monthly active users were using mini programs - this has dipped recently but still remains much higher than in 2017. Mini programs sound a little cryptic but they are in essence apps within the WeChat app (they just aren't allowed to call them apps, reportedly) so that you can do more things.
  • China's sharing economy is expanding overseas, meaning that if you haven't heard of key players such as ofo and Xiaozhu already, you soon will.

    The report also includes trends in tech sectors that are also strong in Britain:
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI). China already has the second highest number of AI startups in the world. Ambitious plans in AI include smart cities (Alibaba), autonomous driving (Baidu) and farming to improve efficiency, yields and income.
  • Autonomous Cars. China's internet companies lead the way, rather than car manufacturers, topped by Baidu who will make autonomous driving buses as well as passenger vehicles.
  • Blockchain. Binance, OKex and Huobi are the leading crypto exchanges in the world. 
  • Fintech. Again, China's leading internet companies are all over fintech - in mobile payments, for example, Alipay and WeChat Pay account for a huge 92 percent of the market.
  • Education. English-learning platforms are using videoconferencing technology to connect Chinese students with overseas teachers. DaDaABC, for example, has UK teachers enlisted in their overseas network.
  • eSports. More than 200 million people in China follow eSports every year via live-streaming. That's more than 6 times the number of UK viewers watching the England semifinal in the World Cup!

If your interest is piqued by these facts and figures, get in touch. We can point you in the right direction and help get you started, whether you're a school curious about the online learning boom or tech specialists with an interest in China collaborations.

*not to be confused for the annual Statistical Report on China's Internet Development published by the China Internet Network Information Centre - we'll save that for another time!