China Internet Report reveals how tech firms have gone from copycats to trailblazers


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The China Internet Report 2019 offers insight into key China technology trends, with deep dives into 11 key sectors and expert commentary from industry leaders. — SCMP

China’s Internet giants used to be called copycats for creating clones of Western social media platforms back in their home market – but those days are long gone and that trend is now in reverse.

Today, global Internet companies from the US to South-East Asia are looking to replicate Chinese concepts – from models such as the all-in-one super app, to social commerce as well as short video, according to findings from the China Internet Report 2019.

The second edition of the China Internet Report, launched at Hong Kong’s RISE conference on July 10, delves into China’s drive to be a global leader in innovation and examines opportunities and challenges facing its technology-led industrial transformation.

The report was authored by the South China Morning Post and its sister site Abacus, in conjunction with Edith Yeung, managing partner at blockchain venture capital fund Proof of Capital.

Companies such as Indonesian ride-hailing company Go-jek, Japan’s LINE messaging app and even Facebook in the US are now moving towards the super-app model, originally pioneered by Tencent’s WeChat, the report found. The WeChat messaging app offers users a range of services from making mobile payments to ordering food deliveries, that can all be accessed without leaving the app.

China is also leading the way in social e-commerce as well as short video. The short video craze was popularised by TikTok, an app by Chinese company Bytedance, that allows users to post 15-second video clips. TikTok took the world by storm and became the most downloaded app on the iOS app store for five consecutive quarters.

Another key trend for China technology this year revolves around China’s ambitions to lead in next-generation 5G technology networks. China currently holds the most number of 5G patents, and has 5G pilot projects going in over a dozen cities with a total population of 167 million, according to the report.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used on a massive scale in China, with applications ranging from paying one’s subway fare or checking into a hotel using facial recognition, to making custom recommendations for online shopping or browsing news online, the report found. AI is also used widely for surveillance purposes, such as helping authorities track down fugitives on the run or enforcing traffic laws.

The China Internet Report provides deep dives into 11 key sectors that make up China’s technology landscape – including e-commerce, social and messaging, the sharing economy, 5G, AI, smartphones and smart devices. Expert commentary from industry leaders such as Lee Kai-fu of Sinovation Ventures, Razer chief executive Tan Min-liang and Eric Xu, managing partner of GGV Capital, are included in the report.

“Technology has been a central piece of the US-China trade war, so understanding what is driving tech in China is essential knowledge in today’s world,” said SCMP’s technology editor Chua Kong Ho.

“Tech companies from around the world are taking cues from new digital innovations and new tech business models in China driving the fourth industrial revolution. The China Internet Report will be essential reading because of China’s internet industry’s growing global influence,” he said.

Proof of Capital’s Yeung, who co-authored the report with the Post and Abacus, said it will “help any reader have a clearer grasp on the technology trends shaping China”.

“We are excited to share new insights with the world to better understand the vibrant dynamic internet landscape in China and its digital innovations that drive the transformation of payments, blockchain, retail, e-commerce and education,” she said.


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