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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.

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

WeChat’s New Emoji Are Here (Including a Watermelon-Eating and Doge One)

WeChat’s new emoji are based on popular memes.

Manya Koetse

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On January 14, Tencent’s Wechat introduced new emoji to its existing emoji set. The new emoji include, among others, a watermelon-eating emoji and a smiling Shiba Inu.

On Weibo, the new emoji have become a topic of discussion under the hashtags “WeChat’s New Emoji” (#微信上线新表情#), “WeChat’s Watermelon Eating Emoji” (#微信上线吃瓜表情#), and “WeChat’s Dog Emoji” (#微信上线狗头表情#).

Different from the Unicode emoji (see Emojipedia), WeChat and Weibo have their own sets of emoji, although there is overlap.

The reason why especially the watermelon-eating and dog emoji are being discussed on social media, is because these emoji are based on popular internet memes.

“Eating watermelon” (吃瓜 chī guā) is an online expression that comes from “watermelon-eating masses” (吃瓜群众 chī guā qúnzhòng), which describes a common mentality of Internet users who have no idea what is actually going on but are still commenting or following online stories for their enjoyment – perhaps comparable to the “popcorn memes” that are ubiquitous on Western social media platforms.

The smiling dog has been around since 2013 and is known as the doge meme, based on a photo of a Shiba inu. The meme was originally spread on social media platforms such as Reddit, but then also became hugely popular in China, where it became a symbol of sarcasm (also read this Abacus article on this topic).

Other new emoji are the “wow” emoji, and others to express “ok,” “add oil,” “emm,” “oh!”

There’s also a “shehui shehui” (社会社会, lit. “society society”) emoji, which also comes from online culture and is a way among friends to (self-mockingly) talk about being ‘gangsters,’ ‘brothers.’ or ‘scoundrels.’

As the new emoji are still in their testing phase, not all WeChat users can use the new emoji yet, so you might have to wait a bit before being able to try them out.

By Manya Koetse, with thanks to @caaatchina
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

‘Good Doctor’, Digital Hospitals: How Mobile Apps Are Alleviating China’s Healthcare Problems

With the rapid digitalization of China’s healthcare, Chinese patients now have more ways than one to receive medical assistance.

Manya Koetse

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China’s healthcare industry is facing some serious challenges. As Chinese society is rapidly digitalizing, mobile apps now provide innovative solutions to alleviate pressing problems in the country’s health services sector.

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, originally published in German by Goethe Institut China on Goethe.de: “Good-Doctor Apps und Digitale Krankenhäuser.” 
 

Social Credit System, artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras; these are some of the hottest topics making headlines in mainstream Western media when discussing China-related developments recently.

With the rapid digitalization of Chinese society, these topics certainly have come to play a more important role in social media discussions within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But if there is one issue that seems to concern Chinese social media users the most, it is not facial recognition nor their ‘Sesame score’: it is the topic of healthcare.

In December of 2017, a photo showing a crying mother kneeling down beside a toddler on the sidewalk in front of a Shanghai hospital went viral overnight. The moment was captured on camera by a reporter who was visiting Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital.

The photo of Guo Yinzhen and her son that went viral in China (image via NetEase, source: https://3g.163.com).

The mother, Guo Yinzhen, is a single parent who had traveled from a remote village to seek medical help for her 3-old-son, who was suffering from congenital hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain.’ Already having traveled to the city multiple times and spending all her money on medical bills, Guo could not afford the additional 100.000 yuan (€ 12.600) for medical procedures needed to save her son’s life.

Guo’s story struck a chord with Chinese netizens, who continue to share the heartbreaking photo on social media to this day. It has become emblematic of China’s healthcare problems.

 

Crowded Hospitals and ‘Healthcare Disturbance’

 

The key to an adequate healthcare system, no matter where in the world, is that there is a right balancing in the “iron triangle” of efficiency/cost containment, high quality care, and patient access.[1] China, however, struggles with all three sides of this triangle.

Guo’s case is an extreme example, but many people in China dealing with less serious health issues and needing basic medical services also struggle to afford and access the healthcare they need.

Over 95% of people in China have health insurance, but people from different regions do not enjoy the same benefits and their out-of-pocket expenses can vary greatly. Uncovered medical costs can sometimes be catastrophic and simply unaffordable for patients and their families.

As more money flows are going to healthcare facilities in China’s cities, there is also the issue of varying levels of providers’ medical education and the overall healthcare quality, with the substantial majority of modern hospitals still existing in urban areas.

Easy access to the right kind of healthcare can be especially problematic for China’s rural population, as people often need to travel long distances and have to go through the lengthy process of registering and waiting for their doctor’s appointment, which sometimes requires them to stay in the city overnight.

For all of these reasons, China’s bigger public hospitals can get super crowded, sometimes resembling shopping malls on an end-of-season sales day. On social media, both patients and medical workers often complain about the stress brought about by the huge crowds and the shortage of doctors in hospitals across the country.

Perhaps it is no wonder that China even has a word to describe outbursts of violence between patients and doctors: ‘Yī nào’ (医闹, literally: “healthcare disturbance”).

Weibo user ‘Sunscreen’ complains about the crowds at Huashan Hospital.

One major problem within China’s healthcare conundrum is the lack of local family or primary-care doctors, which often makes bigger hospitals the first stop to any kind of medical treatment for Chinese patients.

The reasons for this issue are manifold. There is a general lack of trust in private and smaller local healthcare clinics, for example, and patients often choose to go directly to a bigger hospital to avoid making extra costs.

This makes it extra difficult for many community health care centers – that are already struggling – to make enough money and to retain qualified staff. In a society that is rapidly aging, the challenges facing China’s healthcare industry are only becoming more pressing.

 

A Doctor Today, Just an App Away

 

As China’s online environment is thriving, new innovative online apps are popping up on a daily basis. Some of these apps, that have found their ways into China’s most popular app rankings, are offering solutions to some of the country’s most pressing healthcare problems.

One of these apps is Ping’an Good Doctor (平安好医生), which was developed by health insurance provider Ping’an in 2015 and calls itself China’s “one-stop healthcare ecosystem.”

“Ping’an Good Doctor” promotional image by Ping’an.

Employing some 1000 medical staff in its in-house team, contracting over 5,200 external doctors, and collaborating with 3000 hospitals and thousands of pharmacy outlets across the country, the app is somewhat of an “online hospital.”

Through the app, users can look through an online database of medical professionals, order medicine at nearby pharmacies, get 24/7 online medical consultancy, search for information about both Western and Chinese Traditional Medicine, etc., but they can also use Ping’an Good Doctor as a fitness app to track their own health.

Screenshot of Ping’an app screen, by author.

When looking for a specific doctor for a one-on-one consult, the app first lets users select an area of expertise (e.g. dermatology or gynecology), and then offers a list of different specialists in various price categories.

Doctors from well-known hospitals, for example, or those with excellent ratings, have a one-time consultation fee of 100 yuan (€ 12,60). Other doctors can be consulted starting from 30 yuan (€3,70). All costs can be paid efficiently via online payment apps.

Doctors to pick from within the app’s various price categories.

Ping’an Good Doctor uses an AI-driven system to ask patients various questions about their symptoms and to automatically create a user’s medical record to save time. Based on the AI-generated record and the conversation with the patients – files such as photos can also be uploaded to the app -, the doctors can prescribe medicine or refer the patient to a hospital for an offline appointment if needed.

Ping’an recently announced that its number of registered users exceeded 300 million users, with 62 million monthly active users. Because the app keeps building on its AI-driven system, Ping’an Good Doctor can be expected to only become a ‘smarter’ smart health app the more popular it gets.

Although Ping’an is now leading within China’s medical app category, there are many other apps providing similar services, such as Chunyu Yisheng (春雨医生), Haodafu Online (好大夫在线), or DingXiang Doctor (丁香医生).

The emergence of these apps is just one of the many ways in which China’s digital developments, online media, and tech giants are impacting the healthcare industry, profoundly changing how patients receive healthcare information and access medical services now and in the future.

List of recommended medical apps in the Tencent app store.

In a way, China’s medical consultation apps fill the void in offline primary care. Patients who would otherwise turn to hospital care as their first stop can now  access medical consultations any time, any day, at a relatively low cost. Those who suffer from relatively harmless conditions could be diagnosed by a medical specialist via the app and get the medicine they need within a matter of minutes. With the growing popularity of these kinds of apps, many patients no longer need to visit a hospital at all.

Are smart health apps such as Ping’an Good Doctor the solution to China’s healthcare problems? No, they’re not. Struggling mums like Guo Yinzhen will not find the help they need there. But they do contribute to a more efficient healthcare environment where crowd flows in hospitals can be reduced, and patients do not need to spend a lot of time and money to stand in hour-long queues to get five minutes of their doctor’s time.

Although smart health apps could not help Guo Yinzhen and her son, social media apps could. As soon as their story went viral in late 2017, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Foundation Xiaoxingxin offered to cover medical treatments for the little boy, with a notable pediatric neurosurgeon operating the child. According to the latest updates, the boy’s situation was “looking good.”

Hopefully, the same holds true for the challenging sides of China’s healthcare industry.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

[1] Burns & Liu, 2017: 3-4.

References/Linked Sources

Burns, Lawton Robert, and Gordon G. Liu. 2017. “Introduction.” In China’s Healthcare Industry: A System Perspective, Lawton Robert Burns and Gordon G. Liu (eds), pp-1-116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Economist, 2017. “China needs many more primary-care doctors.” The Economist, May 11 https://www.economist.com/china/2017/05/11/china-needs-many-more-primary-care-doctors [20.10.19].

Zhou, Viola. 2018. “Does China Have Universal Healthcare? A Long (And Better) Answer.” Inkstone, Oct 10 https://www.inkstonenews.com/health/china-translated-does-china-have-universal-health-care/article/2167579

This text was first published by Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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