×

China’s Internet: Bigger, Younger, Smarter, Says Study

China’s Internet ecosystem is becoming younger and smarter, while also becoming larger — and more isolated.

According to the second annual “China Internet Report” published by research firm Abacus and the Alibaba-owned South China Morning Post newspaper, China added 57 million Internet users, to give a 2019 online population of 829 million. That is roughly 60% of the country’s population.

The vast majority, 817 million, are mobile Internet users. And with the number who use mobile payments reaching 583 million, the cashless society is being established rapidly.

The report identifies four key trends: Chinese Internet firms are no longer followers, but are increasingly becoming tech pioneers which are likely to be copied; China is racing ahead with implementation of 5G; artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used on a massive scale; and social credit schemes are being powered by the near ubiquity of the Internet in China.

The report largely sticks to demographics, tech trends and finance, without dwelling on policy. Though, presenting the report at the Rise tech convention in Hong Kong, co-author Ravi Hirand said that China is “vast, but isolated (reflecting) the ‘Great Firewall’ and government policy.” China’s president Xi Jinping advocates a policy of cyber-sovereignty, under which each national government is free to set its own rules for the Internet, within its own borders.

The report described the mainland government as “the visible hand.” It said that fintech, gaming, and content-driven Internet companies continue to face tight restrictions by government authorities. These include an enforced halving of online lenders, the 9-month suspension of new licenses in the gaming sector, and the deletion of 7 million web items, and 9,300 apps that no longer had approval.

Chinese companies such as WeChat, Alipay and Meituan have enjoyed success with the super-app business model. That model is now being followed by Facebook, Line and Go-Jek, which are attempting to add content, payments and other functionality to their platforms. Mixing social media and e-commerce is the forte of Taobao, Pinduoduo, and Mogu and is now being emulated by Amazon Live, Checkout with Instagram and YouTube Shopping. China’s TikTok and Kuaishou are enjoying global success with short form video, rivalling Snapchat and Facebook Lasso.

The report said that China’s three telecoms leaders are rolling out super-fast 5G Internet in 12 mainland cities with a population of 167 million. China also leads the world in 5G patents.
A.I., notably facial recognition and machine learning, is being used in China for access control and customized recommendations. Examples include hotel check-ins, subway fares, content recommendation, and virtual fitting of physical goods such as clothes.

Chinese authorities are also increasingly using A.I. for surveillance and control. This includes crowd control, enforcement of traffic laws, and catching criminals. A.I is also allowing the accelerated development of smart cities.

China is also using tech to pioneer social credit systems. “China’s social credit system relies on a series of rewards and punishments meant to encourage people and businesses to abide by rules and to promote integrity and trustworthiness in society at large. In reality, there is no central scoring system but a patchwork of different schemes and apps with differing criteria across provinces, cities and villages,” the report said.

Punishments, however, are already real. The report said that to the end of March authorities had labelled 13.5 million individuals as untrustworthy; had refused the sale of more than 20 million plane tickets, and 5.7 million train tickets as punishment of people who owed money or exhibited other “untrustworthy” behavior.

Further evidence of the growth of Chinese Internet companies came from the booming number of tech firm IPOs. The report counted 28 Chinese tech firms that last year listed on U.S. stock exchanges, and a further 28 which listed in Hong Kong. Those firms have a combined market capitalization of $222 billion.

More Digital

  • FaceApp is displayed on an iPhone,

    SAG-AFTRA Warns Members About FaceApp Terms of Use

    SAG-AFTRA is warning its 160,000 members about the “overreaching and invasive” terms of use for the FaceApp mobile application. FaceApp, developed by Russian company Wireless Lab, uses neural network technology to automatically generate transformations of faces in photographs. The app can be used to make users appear older, younger, or change gender. The terms include [...]

  • J. Cole

    Apple Music Launches 'Rap Life' Playlist

    Apple Music announced the launch of “Rap Life,” a new global playlist focusing on contemporary rap artists and culture. It replaces the former “The A-List: Hip-Hop” playlist. Said Ebro Darden, Apple Music’s Global Editorial Head of Hip-Hop and R&B: “We flipped it to dig deeper into into the lifestyle [and to] keep pushing the culture [...]

  • Billie Eilish

    ARRI, Mobile TV Group Back New Venture Revitalizing Streamed Concerts

    A new venture looking to bring a fresh approach to live-streaming concerts has gotten the backing of hardware heavyweights ARRI and Mobile TV Group. Wide+Close is launching with the mandate of shooting music performances with film cameras and cinematographers in order to give the content a more cinematic feel. “We want to take concert filming [...]

  • Fortnite Battle Royale

    How 'Fortnite' Fans Can Earn Loot by Watching YouTube Videos

    Epic Games and YouTube have teamed up with a special offer for “Fortnite” players — giving players of the popular battle-royale game rewards when they watch “Fortnite”-premiered content on the video platform. The catch: You have to watch at least 20 minutes of “Fortnite” special content or live esports broadcasts to receive the loot. Under [...]

  • Roku headquarters

    Roku Plans to Expand to Brazil, Other Countries (EXCLUSIVE)

    Roku plans to expand to multiple new territories in the coming months, Variety has learned. One of the first new markets for the company will likely be Brazil. An international expansion could help Roku grow its customer base, which in turn should lead to growing advertising revenues. Roku executives have been hinting at plans to [...]

  • Google Stadia Pro to Include 1

    Google’s Stadia Game Streaming Service to Include Free Monthly Game

    Google has been busy sharing additional details about its upcoming game streaming service Stadia, clearing up some confusion in the process. Stadia’s pro subscription tier, which will cost $10 per month, won’t be a Netflix-type subscription service. However, subscribers will get free games at the rate of about a title per month. That’s according to [...]

  • Crypt-TV-Facebook

    Facebook Signs Deal With Crypt TV for Slate of Five Horror Series

    Crypt TV, the digital studio founded by Eli Roth and Jack Davis and backed by Jason Blum, expanded its deal with Facebook, inking a content partnership to create a slate of five horror and monster-themed series exclusively for Facebook Watch. For Facebook Watch, it’s one of the first deals for a full slate of content [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content