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The Rise of China as Global Tech Superpower (Live @ RISE Hong Kong 2018)

RISE conference: Is China surpassing the US as the world’s digital leader?

Manya Koetse

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At RISE, Asia’s biggest tech conference, the rise of China as tech leader is a major theme. What’s on Weibo reports on the launch of the China Internet Report and other China-related talks at RISE today.

China is a major theme this week at RISE, the largest tech conference in Asia, taking place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center from July 9-12.

Besides wide attention for Chinese latest startups and tech developments, a central question posed at this year’s conference is if China is the current world leader in technology, and if it has thus surpassed Silicon Valley as the global tech powerhouse.

In the morning of July 12, Edith Yeung (500 Startups), Ravi Hiranand (Abacus), and Chua Kong Ho (South China Morning Post) reveal the hugely publicised China Internet Report, which brings a definitive outlook of the companies, industries and trends that are changing the technology space.

Also on Tuesday, another panel with various speakers from Bloomberg to Withinlink address the question of whether or not China is now the world leader in technology, and if its rise should be feared by the US.

What’s on Weibo is here at RISE to live report for you – refresh page for updates (update: live blog now closed).

 

China Internet Report (10:30 HKT)


 

In their presentation of the latest findings when it comes to China and the internet, Edith Yeung, Ravi Hiranand, and Chua Kong Ho present four major themes that are crucial to digital China.

Firstly, as explained by Chua Kong Ho, “Chinese Internet giants are doing everything.” The major players such as Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are not just involved in e-commerce or social media, but also, for example, in the e-sharing economy, gaming, education, media, or artificial intelligence – penetrating all markets that matter in China today.

 

“Chinese Internet giants are doing everything.”

 

Second, Chinese internet empowers rural populations. E-commerce platforms such as Taobao, for instance, give ample new opportunities to people in the Chinese countryside to set up new businesses; a crucial theme in China’s digital developments today, as it greatly impacts society.

The Chinese Internet Report launched today, click to see. (URL https://www.abacusnews.com/china-internet-report/).

Third, Chinese internet companies embrace ‘social’: social media plays a major role in China’s digital market, arguably much more than it does in countries such as the US.

And last, Ko explains, the Chinese government is the visible hand – controlling all corners of the Chinese internet.

 

Biggest Tech Trends in China (10:40 HKT)


 

As Edith Yeung dives deeper in what matters in China today when it comes to digital developments, she focuses on the importance of AI and how tools such as facial recognition are playing an increasingly important role in Chinese society today; not just for practical matters such as train ticket collections, but also for governance, helping catching fugitives or jaywalkers. In terms of AI, China is investing the most in the world right now.

China’s first robot dentist fits implants into a patient’s mouth in 2017 (photo via Dailymail).

Robotics is also an area of major development in China, as intelligent service robots continue to upgrade across industries, including e-commerce and healthcare. As an example, Yeung mentions that in September 2017, the first robot dentist was introduced in the PRC.

Yeung, Hiranand, and Ko at Rise 2018 (photo whatsonweibo.com)

“Chinese consumers are crazy about cryptocurrency,” Yeung also emphasizes, and the cryptocurrency trading market is a huge and booming one – although “the government is not too friendly to the market.”

But blockchain technology is applauded more from the authority side. Although still in its infancy, companies such as Alibaba are already working with the government in applying blockchain technology across various industries.

Launch: The full Chinese Internet Report 2018 can be found here.

 

Attitudes that matter (11:00 HKT)


 

For Edith Yeung, who was selected by Inc’s Magazine as “one of the Silicon Valley investors you must know,” the question of whether or not China is the global tech leader is not a difficult one.

 

“China is leading and people elsewhere in the world have no clue.”

 

“I really think China is leading in so many areas, and people elsewhere in the world just have no clue,” Yeung says during the Q&A following the presentation of the China Internet Report.

Yeung also links the growth of Chinese tech companies to the working attitude of the people that is related to China’s history.

“My generation, let’s say those thirty-plus generations, remembers what it means to be poor. And that you have to work hard to be successful. People work hard because they can remember those days, and that attitude is not likely to change over the coming decades. There’s no nine to five attitude.”

 

World Leader in Technology (11:55 HKT)


 

Silicon Valley has always been seen as the world leading technology hub. During another RISE panel, simply titled “Is China now the world leader in technology?”, speakers Bessie Lee (Withinlink founder), Wayne Xu (Zhongan International president), Harry Hui (ClearVue Partners founding partner), Lei Chen (Xunlei CEO), and Tim Culpan (Bloomberg columnist) will address if the US should fear the rise of China as a tech superpower.

For moderator Tim Culpan, the answer is simple: “Obviously the answer is yes. We’re done here.”

But for the other speakers, the answer is not that straightforward. Bessie Lee sees two sides to China’s rise: “Is China a world leader in tech? Yes and no,” she says: “In mobile, e-commerce and mobile, China is definitely leading. But when it comes to privacy protection, for example, they are not leading in all aspects.”

Lee stresses that in mainland China, the regulations always fall behind the technology development. “It’s not there yet,” she states.

 

“They run fast. Those who do not run fast will be left behind.”

 

Other speakers agree with Lee. Wayne Xu sees China as a leader in financial and consumer-facing areas, whereas it is still lacking in others. “But as for AI, China is leading,” – a statement all speakers today stress.

Harry Hui mentions that the boom of exciting innovation in China partly comes from the fierce competition between local players: “Because of this enormous competition, they need to depend on data and be very quick in how they innovate and keep launching new services to stay relevant. They run fast. Those who do not run fast will be left behind.”

Chinese companies and the government have more focus on technological development today than the US has, Xunlei’s Lei Chen states. But still, he says, China has a lot of catching up to do.

 

“Chinese are going to take on the US market, but the US are not going to take on the Chinese market.”

 

Lei does not agree with Lee that regulation is most problematic – he says it is the participants in the market that are often lacking in quality and tech knowledge. Nevertheless, when it comes to AI and blockchain, Lei stresses, “China’s overtake is around the corner.”

Both Harry Hui and Wayne Xu both say that China will follow its own path in its rise as tech leader; a unique road that is different from paths taken by other leaders such as the US.

According to Bessie Lee, one dimension of this road is that “Chinese are going to take on the US market, but the US are not going to take on the Chinese market” – a crucial dynamic that will eventually determine who the global tech leader will be.

As for today’s speakers, they all seem to agree that if China is not already the leader in tech, it will be in the future.

Hours after the kick-off of RISE, conference visitors also hold similar views (see image above); according to the majority of voters, “when China will overtake Silicon Valley” is not a question for the future – it is already happening.

Also read: The top ten things you need to know from the China Internet Report by Abacus.

This live blog is closed. Keep checking in on What’s on Weibo in days to come for more updates on RISE and latest news on what’s trending on Chinese social media.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

Summer Censorship: Weibo Launches “Project Sky Blue”

No hot summer on Weibo: the social media network announces extra censorship on ‘vulgar content.’

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Earlier this week, the administration of Sina Weibo announced a special summer holiday crackdown on “vulgar content,” including “pornographic novels, erotic anime, pictures or videos.”

In a public announcement that was posted on July 4th, the Weibo administration writes that the primary goal of this campaign is to “create a healthier, more positive environment for underage users” during the summer break period.

The censorship plan is titled “Project Deep Blue” (or: “Project Sky Blue”) (蔚蓝计划), and will use filter systems, human moderators and user reports to censor more content for the upcoming two months.

The project even has its own Weibo account now, where Weibo users can ask questions, report inappropriate content, and get more information on the campaign.

Weibo states it will further expand its team of online content supervisors, and also explicitly encourages netizens to flag ‘inappropriate’ content to make the online community ‘more wholesome.’

The hashtag #ProjectDeepBlue (#蔚蓝计划#) topped the hot search lists on Weibo this week; not necessarily because of the topic’s popularity, but because it was placed there by the social media site’s administration. At time of writing, the hashtag page has attracted more than 180 million views.

Online responses to the summer censorship program are mixed: many commenters voice their support for the latest measure, while others express frustration.

One Weibo user from Hubei calls the latest measure “hypocritical,” arguing that minors surf Weibo just as much during school time as during the summer holiday – suggesting that launching a special censorship program for the summer vacation does not make sense at all.

But many popular comments are in favor of the project, saying: “I support Project Deep Blue, the internet needs to be cleaned up,” and: “China’s young people need to be protected.”

This is not the first time Weibo launches a special intensified censorship program. Throughout the years, it has repeatedly carried out ‘anti-pornography‘ campaigns in cooperation with Chinese cyberspace authorities.

Often, the crusade against ‘vulgar’ content also ends up being used for the purpose of censoring political content rather than to actually eradicate ‘obscenities’ (read more).

By now, it seems that many Weibo users are quite actively using the Project Deep Blue tag to report on other users who are posting violent or vulgar content.

“If you’re not careful, you’re hit with vulgar and obscene content the moment you’re on the internet,” well-known mom blogger Humapanpan (@虎妈潘潘) writes: “Now that the summer holiday is coming, I hope we can join the Project Deep Blue, and clean up the internet environment.  Actively report obscene content the moment you see it – let’s protect our future together.”

By Skylar Xu & Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Celebs

Faking Street Photography: Why Staged “Street Snaps” Are All the Rage in China

Staged street photography is the latest “15 minutes of fame” trend on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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It looks as if they are spontaneously photographed or filmed by one of China’s many street photographers, but it is actually staged. Chinese online influencers – or the companies behind them – are using street photography as part of their social media strategy. And then there are those who are mocking them.

Recently a new trend has popped up on Chinese social media: people posting short videos on their accounts that create the impression that they are being spotted by street fashion photographers. Some look at the camera in a shy way, others turn away, then there are those who smile and cheekily stick out their tongue at the camera.

Although it may appear to be all spontaneous, these people – mostly women – are actually not randomly being caught on camera by one of China’s many street fashion photographers in trendy neighborhoods. They have organized this ‘fashion shoot’ themselves, often showing off their funny poses and special moves, from backward flips to splits, to attract more attention (see example in video embedded below).

In doing so, these self-made models are gaining more fans on their Weibo, Douyin, Xiaohongshu, or WeChat accounts, and are turning their social media apps into their very own stage.

 

Street Photography in Sanlitun

 

The real street photography trend has been ongoing in China for years, near trendy areas such as Hangzhou’s Yintai shopping mall, or Chengdu’s Taikoo Li.

One place that is especially known for its many street photographers is Beijing’s see-and-be-seen Sanlitun area, where photographers have since long been gathering around the Apple or Uniqlo stores with their big lens cameras to capture people walking by and their trendy fashion.

A few years ago, Thatsmag featured an article discussing this phenomenon, asking: “Who are these guys and what are they doing with their photos?”

Author Dominique Wong found that many of these people are older men, amateur photographers, who are simply snapping photos of attractive, fashionable, and unique-looking people as their hobby.

But there are also those who are working for street fashion blogs or style magazines such as P1, and are actually making money with their street snaps capturing China’s latest fashion trends.

Image by 新浪博客

People featured in these street snaps can sometimes go viral and become internet celebrities (网红). One of China’s most famous examples of a street photographed internet celebrity is “Brother Sharp.”

‘Brother Sharp’ became an online hit in 2009 (image via Chinasmack).

It’s been ten years since “Brother Sharp” (犀利哥), a homeless man from Ningbo, became an online hit in China for his fashionable and handsome appearance, after his street snap went trending on the Chinese internet.

 

Staged Street Scenes

 

But what if nobody’s snapping your pics and you want to go viral with your “Oh, I am being spotted by street fashion photographers” video? By setting up their own “street snap” shoots, online influencers take matters into their own hands.

It is not just individuals who are setting up these shoots; there are also companies and brands that do so in order to make their (fashion) products more famous. According to People’s Daily, in Hangzhou alone, there are over 200 photographers for such “street snaps” and hundreds of thousands of models for such “performances.”

The photographers can, supposedly, earn about 20,000 to 30,000 yuan ($2,890-$4,335) per day and the models are well paid.

In this way, the “street snap performance” phenomenon is somewhat similar to another trend that especially became apparent in China around 2015-2016, namely that of ‘bystander videos’ capturing a public scene. Although these videos seem to be real, there are actually staged.

One such example happened in 2017 when a video went viral of a young woman being scolded on a Beijing subway for wearing a revealing cosplay outfit.

The story attracted much attention on social media at the time, with many netizens siding with the young woman and praising her for responding coolly although the woman was attacking her. Later, the whole scene turned out to be staged with the purpose of generating more attention for the ad of a “cool” food delivery platform behind the older lady.

In 2015, photos of a ‘romantic proposal’ made its rounds on social media when a young man asked his pregnant girlfriend to marry him using over 50 packs of diapers in the shape of a giant heart. One bag of diapers carried a diamond ring inside. It was later said the scene was sponsored by Libero Diapers.

 

Wanghong Economy

 

Both the latest street snap trend and the staged video trend are all part of China’s so-called “Wanghong economy.” Wǎnghóng (网红) is the Chinese term for internet celebrities, KOL (Key Opinion Leader) or ‘influencer.’ Influencer marketing is hot and booming in China: in 2018, the industry was estimated to be worth some $17.16 billion.

Being a wanghong is lucrative business: the more views, clicks, and fans one has, the more profit they can make through e-commerce and online advertising.

Using Chinese KOLs to boost brands can be an attractive option for advertisers, since their social media accounts have a huge fanbase. Prices vary on the amount of fans the ‘influencer’ has. In 2015, for example, the Chinese stylist Xiao P already charged RMB 76,000 ($11,060) for a one-time product mention on his Weibo account (36 million fans).

According to the “KOL budget Calculator” by marketing platform PARKLU, a single sponsored post on the Weibo account of a famous influencer will cost around RMB 60,000 ($8730).

The current staged street snap hype is interesting for various online media businesses in multiple ways. On short video app Douyin, for example, the hugely popular street snap videos come with a link that allows app users to purchase the exact same outfits as the girls in the videos.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, an online survey by Tencent found that 54% of college-age respondents had the ambition to become an “online celebrity.”

 

Making Non-Fashion Fashion: The Farm Field as a Catwalk

 

Although becoming an actual online celebrity used to be a far-fetched dream for many Chinese netizens, the latest staged-street-snap trend creates the possibility for people to experience their “15 minutes of fame” online.

Just as in previous online trends such as the Flaunt Your Wealth Challenge or A4 Waist Challenge, you see that many people soon participate in them, and that they are then followed by an “anti-movement” of people making fun of the trend or using it to promote a different social point-of-view.

The 2018 “Flaunt Your Wealth” challenge, for example, in which Chinese influencers shared pictures of themselves falling out of their cars with their expensive possessions all around them, was followed by an Anti-Flaunt Your Wealth movement, in which ordinary people mocked the challenge by showing themselves on the floor with their diplomas, military credentials, painting tools, or study books around them.

In case of the (staged) “Fashion Street Photography” movement, that now has over 103 million views on Weibo (#全国时尚街拍大赏# and #街拍艺术行为大赏#), you can also see that many people have started to mock it.

“I find [this trend] so embarrassing that I want to toss my phone away, yet I can’t help but watch it,” one Weibo user (@十一点半关手机) writes, with others agreeing, saying: “This is all so awkward, it just makes my skin crawl.”

The anti-trend answer to the staged street shoot hype now is that people are also pretending to be doing such a street snap, but ridiculing it by making over-the-top movements, doing it in ‘uncool’ places, wearing basic clothing, or setting up a funny situation (see embedded tweet below).

Some of these short videos show ‘models’ walking in a rural area, pretending to be photographed by a ‘street fashion photographer’ – it’s an anti-trend that’s become a trend in itself (see videos in embedded tweets below).

Although this ‘anti-trend’ is meant in a mocking way, it is sometimes also a form of self-expression for young people for whom the Sanlitun-wannabe-models life is an extravagant and sometimes unattainable one.

They don’t need trendy streets and Chanel bags to pretend to be models: even the farm field can be their catwalk.

In the end, the anti-trend “models” on Chinese social media are arguably much cooler than the influencers pretending to be photographed. Not only do they convey a sense of authenticity, they also have something else that matters the most in order to be truly cool and attractive: a sense of humor.

Also read: From Mountains of Taishan to Faces of Amsterdam – Interview with Street Photographer Jimmy on the Run

Also read: Beijing Close-Up: Photographer Tom Selmon Crosses the Borders of Gender in China

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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