The Promise and Peril of Chinese Tech Investment in Africa

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
In this week's show, we bring you two perspectives on the promise and peril of increased Chinese technology investment in Africa.Harriet Kariuki is an emerging markets analyst in Kenya where she surveys the digital landscape and local start-up...

Conversation

08.07.18

We’re a Long Way from 2008

Kate Merkel-Hess, Maura Cunningham & more
On August 8, 2008, China’s then Chairman Hu Jintao told a group of world leaders visiting Beijing to attend the Olympics that “the historic moment we have long awaited is arriving.” Indeed, awarding the Games to China in 2001 sparked a fierce debate...

China’s Introverts Find a Kindred Spirit: A Stick Figure From Finland

Mike Ives and Zoe Mou
New York Times
The “Finnish Nightmares” comic series documents the social challenges faced by Matti, a mild-mannered stick figure who abhors small talk. The series has been trending on Chinese social media, and it even spawned a new word for social awkwardness in...

Whistleblower Reveals Google’s Plans for Censored Search in China

James Vincent
Verge
According to internal documents provided to The Intercept by a whistleblower, Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename “Dragonfly” since the beginning of 2017. The search engine is being built as an...

Disgraced Former Chinese Internet Tzar Lu Wei Charged with Bribery

James Griffiths
CNN
Lu Wei “accepted a large number of bribes” during his time as national propaganda chief, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, deputy head of the official Xinhua news agency, and as a Beijing city official, according to state media.

Conversation

07.30.18

China May Become the World’s Leader in AI. But at What Cost?

Andrew Batson, Virgilio Bisio & more
The unprecedented amounts of data Chinese tech giants like Baidu and Alibaba collect is helping accelerate China’s development of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) applications, including facial recognition, automated retail operations, and...

Books

06.20.18

The Third Revolution

Elizabeth C. Economy
Oxford University Press: In The Third Revolution, eminent China scholar Elizabeth C. Economy provides an incisive look at the transformative changes underway in China today. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has unleashed a powerful set of political and economic reforms: the centralization of power under Xi, himself; the expansion of the Communist Party’s role in Chinese political, social, and economic life; and the construction of a virtual wall of regulations to control more closely the exchange of ideas and capital between China and the outside world. Beyond its borders, Beijing has recast itself as a great power, seeking to reclaim its past glory and to create a system of international norms that better serves its more ambitious geostrategic objectives. In so doing, the Chinese leadership is reversing the trends toward greater political and economic opening, as well as the low-profile foreign policy, that had been put in motion by Deng Xiaoping’s “Second Revolution” 30 years earlier.Through a wide-ranging exploration of Xi Jinping’s top political, economic, and foreign policy priorities—fighting corruption, managing the Internet, reforming the state-owned enterprise sector, improving the country’s innovation capacity, enhancing air quality, and elevating China’s presence on the global stage—Economy identifies the tensions, shortcomings, and successes of Xi’s reform efforts over the course of his first five years in office. She also assesses their implications for the rest of the world, and provides recommendations for how the United States and others should navigate their relationship with this vast nation in the coming years.{chop}

Books

06.13.18

Censored

Margaret E. Roberts
Princeton University Press: As authoritarian governments around the world develop sophisticated technologies for controlling information, many observers have predicted that these controls would be ineffective because they are easily thwarted and evaded by savvy Internet users. In Censored, Margaret Roberts demonstrates that even censorship that is easy to circumvent can still be enormously effective. Taking advantage of digital data harvested from the Chinese Internet and leaks from China’s Propaganda Department, this book sheds light on how and when censorship influences the Chinese public.Roberts finds that much of censorship in China works not by making information impossible to access but by requiring those seeking information to spend extra time and money for access. By inconveniencing users, censorship diverts the attention of citizens and powerfully shapes the spread of information. When Internet users notice blatant censorship, they are willing to compensate for better access. But subtler censorship, such as burying search results or introducing distracting information on the web, is more effective because users are less aware of it. Roberts challenges the conventional wisdom that online censorship is undermined when it is incomplete and shows instead how censorship’s porous nature is used strategically to divide the public.Drawing parallels between censorship in China and the way information is manipulated in the United States and other democracies, Roberts reveals how Internet users are susceptible to control even in the most open societies. Demonstrating how censorship travels across countries and technologies, Censored gives an unprecedented view of how governments encroach on the media consumption of citizens.{chop}

Viewpoint

05.30.18

Who’s Really Responsible for Digital Privacy in China?

Shazeda Ahmed & Bertram Lang
While the United States is reeling from the revelation that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested data from over 87 million Facebook accounts, China’s biggest tech companies and regulators are confronting a wave of of their own...

10 Years After Tragic Quake, China Calls for ‘Thanksgiving’

Tiffany May
New York Times
The looming anniversary of a deadly Sichuan earthquake has been named “Thanksgiving Day” by local government officials, drawing scorn from Chinese internet users who feel the government should be honoring the dead instead.

For Better or Worse, Africa’s Digital Future is Tied to China

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Chinese tech companies are now the most important players in Africa’s rapid emergence as one of the world’s fastest growing digital markets. People’s Republic of China companies, private and state-owned, are working with local telecom operators...

Conversation

04.11.18

China’s Communist Party Takes (Even More) Control of the Media

Stanley Rosen, Chris Fenton & more
China’s Communist Party made moves last month to solidify and formalize its (already substantial) control over the country’s media. China’s main state-run broadcasters are to be consolidated into a massive new “Voice of China” under the management...

Reports

03.13.18

Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China

PEN America
PEN International
Based on extensive interviews with writers, poets, artists, activists, and others personally affected by the government’s grip on online expression, as well as interviews with anonymous employees at Chinese social media companies, this report lays...

Media

03.08.18

Weibo Whack-a-Mole

King-wa Fu, Channing Huang & more from Weiboscope
China might be the world’s second-largest economy, and have more Internet users than any other country, but each year it is ranked as the nation that enjoys the least Internet freedom among the 65 sample nations scored by the U.S.-based Freedom...

Viewpoint

02.15.18

A Clash of Cyber Civilizations

Geoffrey Hoffman
There has been little need for the term “cyber sovereignty” among democratic states: the Internet, by its nature, operates under an aegis of freedom and cooperation. However, as the international system slips away from American unipolarity, a...

This Week in China Tech: Xiaomi’s 460 Investments, Tencent’s Gamble and a New ‘Blockchain Academy’

Bay McLaughlin
Forbes
China’s technology scene is always shifting, and this week we’ve seen big news coming from Xiaomi, Tencent, Wanda, Baidu, among others. Here are the some of the most interesting tech stories out of China you might not have heard about.

How WeChat Came to Rule China

Shannon Liao
Verge
China’s most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it’s an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor...

China Escalates Crackdown on Cryptocurrency Trading

Bloomberg
China is escalating its clampdown on cryptocurrency trading, targeting online platforms and mobile apps that offer exchange-like services, according to people familiar with the matter.

China Disrupts Global Companies’ Web Access as Censorship Bites

Yuan Yang and Lucy Hornby
Financial Times
Groups fear being forced to use expensive VPN software surveilled by Beijing.

Reports

12.12.17

Central Planning, Local Experiments

Mareike Ohlberg, Shazeda Ahmed, Bertram Lang
Shazeda Ahmed & Bertram Lang
Mercator Institute for China Studies
The “Social Credit System” is designed to monitor and rate citizens and companies in China and to guide their behavior. “It is a wide-reaching project that touches on almost all aspects of everyday life,” the authors Mareike Ohlberg, Bertram Lang,...

Conversation

12.06.17

Apple in China: WTF?

Samuel Wade, Shaun Rein & more
In November, the non-profit watchdog Freedom House called China “the worst abuser of Internet freedom” of the 65 countries it surveyed. And yet, on December 3, Apple CEO Tim Cook keynoted China’s annual World Internet Conference. “The theme of this...

Are Alibaba and Tencent Fueling a Tech Bubble? Investors Weigh the Worrisome Question

Polina Marinova
Fortune
Alibaba has spent roughly $1.72 billion buying at least 50 startups and small businesses since 2013, while Tencent has doled out at least $780 million over the same period, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Viewpoint

11.03.17

The Future of Particle Physics Will Live and Die in China

Yangyang Cheng from Foreign Policy
“Don’t you dare kill my project.”My phone interview with a senior official at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) had started with bland, yet polite, responses. But it took a sharp turn toward audible agitation and hostility as I raised my final...

The Communist App Store: China's Endless Apps for Tracking, Organizing, and Motivating Party Members

Echo Huang
Quartz
China’s Communist Party is getting into app development big time, with dozens of apps to educate and promote social networking among party members hitting the country’s Apple and Android app stores.

Accelerating Fintech in China

Joshua Bateman
TechCrunch
China’s expeditious adoption of fintech is generating profits not only for startups, but also the companies investing in them. Sitting in the headquarters of FinPlus, a fintech venture capital firm and accelerator, its CEO, Mosso Lau, said, “There...

Cyber Norms in U.S.-China Relations

Paul Haenle & Tim Maurer from Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
The United States and China agreed in 2015 that neither government would support or conduct cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property and committed to working with international partners to identify appropriate norms in cyberspace. Both countries...

Fame Academy, the Chinese College Offering Classes in How to Become an Internet Celebrity

Liu Zhen
South China Morning Post
Chongqing Institute of Engineering has already enrolled 19 students, mainly female, to be taught about how to present themselves online to attract viewers and translate fame into profit.

Sinica Podcast

09.11.17

China’s Tightening Grip on Cyberspace

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Adam Segal returns to Sinica to comment on China’s recent cybersecurity law—where it came from, how it changed as it was being drafted, and how it may shape the flow of information in China in the future. Other issues discussed include the...

Joining Apple, Amazon’s China Cloud Service Bows to Censors

Paul Mozur
New York Times
Days after Apple yanked anti-censorship tools off its app store in China, another major American technology company is moving to implement the country’s tough restrictions on online content.

A Crackdown on Unfettered Internet Access Is Jeopardizing China’s Pro-Business Credentials

Charlie Campbell
Time
Another big political meeting, another crackdown on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)—the location-shifting software many in China use to access websites banned by its government, such as Facebook, YouTube and Google.

The Passion of Liu Xiaobo

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
In the late 1960s Mao Zedong, China’s Great Helmsman, encouraged children and adolescents to confront their teachers and parents, root out “cow ghosts and snake spirits,” and otherwise “make revolution.” In practice, this meant closing China’s...

Google Is Already Late to China’s AI Revolution

Wired
“Some of the major Chinese companies are some of the most sophisticated deep learning and data companies in the world.”

Conversation

05.09.17

Can China’s Approach to Internet Control Spread around the World?

Anne Henochowicz, Rogier Creemers & more
Earlier this month, citing concerns over “cyber sovereignty,” China’s Internet regulators announced new restrictions on the country’s already tightly controlled Internet—further curbing online news reporting and putting Party-appointed editors in...

Books

05.02.17

China’s Mobile Economy

Winston Ma
China’s Mobile Economy: Opportunities in the Largest and Fastest Information Consumption Boom is a cutting-edge text that spotlights the digital transformation in China. Organized into three major areas of the digital economy within China, this ground-breaking book explores the surge in e-commerce of consumer goods, the way in which multi-screen and mobile Internet use has increased in popularity, and the cultural emphasis on the mobile Internet as a source of lifestyle- and entertainment-based content. Targeted at the global business community, this lucid and engaging text guides business leaders, investors, investment banking professionals, corporate advisors, and consultants in grasping the challenges and opportunities created by China’s emerging mobile economy, and its debut on the global stage.The year of 2014-15 marks the most important inflection point in the history of the Internet in China. Almost overnight, the world’s largest digitally-connected middle class went both mobile and multi-screen (smart phone, tablets, laptops, and more), with huge implications for how consumers behave and what companies need to do to successfully compete. As next-generation mobile devices and services take off, China’s strength in this arena will transform it from a global “trend follower” to a “trend setter.”Understand what the digital transformation in China is, and impact on global capital markets, foreign investors, consumer companies, and the global economy as a whole.Explore the e-commerce consumption boom in the context of the Chinese market.Understand the implications of the multi-screen age and mobile Internet for China’s consumersSee how mobile Internet use, its focus on lifestyle and entertainment is aligned with today’s Chinese culture.Learn about the mobile entertainment habits of China’s millennial generation and the corresponding new advertisement approaches.The development of China’s mobile economy is one of the most important trends that will reshape the future of business, technology, and society both in China and the world. China's Mobile Economy introduces you to the digital transformation in China, and explains how this transformation has the potential to transform both China and the global consumer landscape. —John Wiley & Sons, Inc.{chop}

Books

03.27.17

Wish Lanterns

Alec Ash
If China will rule the world one day, who will rule China? There are more than 320 million Chinese between the ages of 16 and 30. Children of the one-child policy, born after Mao, with no memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, they are the first net native generation to come of age in a market-driven, more international China. Their experiences and aspirations were formed in a radically different country from the one that shaped their elders, and their lives will decide the future of their nation and its place in the world.Wish Lanterns offers a deep dive into the life stories of six young Chinese. Dahai is a military child, netizen, and self-styled loser. Xiaoxiao is a hipster from the freezing north. Fred, born on the tropical southern island of Hainan, is the daughter of a Party official, while Lucifer is a would-be international rock star. Snail is a country boy and Internet-gaming addict, and Mia is a fashionista rebel from far west Xinjiang. Following them as they grow up, go to college, and find work and love, all the while navigating the pressure of their parents and society, Wish Lanterns paints a vivid portrait of Chinese youth culture and of a millennial generation whose struggles and dreams reflect the larger issues confronting China today. —Arcade Publishing{chop}

Sinica Podcast

03.17.17

Big Daddy Dough: Hip-hop and Macroeconomics in China

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
By day, Andrew Dougherty is a macroeconomist who manages a China research team for Capital Group, one of the world’s largest actively managed mutual funds. By night, he is Big Daddy Dough, creator of an album of parody hip-hop songs that explain...

Is Google Another Step Closer to Being Unblocked in China?

Nectar Gan
CNBC
Google is still in talks with Beijing over its plans to return to the mainland Chinese market

China’s Political Propaganda Gets a Digital Makeover

BBC
There are more such tactics being adopted this year.

Sinica Podcast

01.31.17

Talking ’Bout My Generation: Chinese Millennials

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Alec Ash, a young British writer who lives in Beijing, has covered “left-behind” children in Chinese villages, the “toughest high-school exam in the world,” and Internet live-streaming, among many other subjects. He is the author of Wish Lanterns,...

Depth of Field

01.17.17

House Calls on the Tibetan Plateau, Children of Divorce, Celebrity Secrets

Yan Cong, Ye Ming & more from Yuanjin Photo
In the final galleries of 2016, the publishing juggernaut Tencent again shows its leadership in the documentary photography space, but iFeng’s choice to publish a personal photo gallery by Zhou Xin is also worth a good look, especially since...

The Memes That Took Over China’s Internet in 2016

Echo Huang and Zheping Huang
Quartz
This year's most popular memes reflected a more ruthless and aggressive—but also more fragile—China...

Chinese Propaganda Video Warns of West’s “Devilish Claws”

Chris Buckley
New York Times
The video has been widely promoted online by public security offices that oversee the police, including the Ministry of Public Security

China’s Digital Dictatorship

Economist
Turn the spotlight on the rulers, not the ruled: Instead of rating citizens, the government should be allowing them to assess the way it rules

Popular Chinese Muslim Website Down After Posting Letter Critical of Xi

Christian Shepherd
Reuters
Users of China Muslim Net say they have been unable to access the website since Saturday

Media

12.09.16

U.S.-China Relations As a Cycle of ‘Rapturous Enchantment’ and ‘Deep Disappointment’

Eric Fish from Asia Blog
In 1872, China’s imperial government began sending teenage boys to the United States to study science and technology. After a series of “humiliating” military defeats at the hands of technologically superior foreign powers, China’s leaders realized...

Why Facebook’s China Adventure Will Need More than Censorship to Succeed

Benjamin Haas
Guardian
As social network develops tools to restrict users so China will let it in, some experts say it is ‘light years’ behind rivals already in place

Putin Brings China’s Great Firewall to Russia in Cybersecurity Pact

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Boroga
Guardian
The Kremlin has joined forces with Chinese authorities to bring the internet and its users under greater state control

Conversation

11.28.16

Should Facebook Self-Censor to Enter the Chinese Market?

Kaiser Kuo, Clay Shirky & more
The social network Facebook has reportedly developed software to suppress posts from users’ feeds in targeted geographic areas, a feature created to help the giant social media network gain access to China, where it is blocked. Facebook Chief...

China Presses Tech Firms to Police the Internet

Eva Dou
Wall Street Journal
Third-annual World Internet Conference aimed at proselytizing China’s view to global audience

China’s Controversial, Out-Sized Role in Africa’s Digital Revolution

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
Africa is home to one of the fastest growing technology markets in the world. In fact, more African households own a mobile phone than have reliable electricity or clean water. The combination of a young population, quickly growing economies, and...

China’s Xi Urges Cooperation Among Nations in Governance of Global Internet

Catherine Cadell
Reuters
At an internet conference in Wuzhen, Xi called for greater cooperation among nations in governing the internet, while respecting "cyber sovereignty"...

Swinging Singles' Day: Alibaba Holiday Drives Shoppers in China

Eva Dou
Wall Street Journal
China’s online-retail giant once again broke its sales record on the shopping day it helped create

China Adopts Cybersecurity Law Despite Foreign Opposition

Bloomberg
The law requires internet operators to cooperate with investigations involving crime and national security, mandatory testing and certification of equipment

Netflix's New, Brilliant China Strategy: Stay Out of the Country

Josh Horwitz
Quartz
Netflix is saying zaijian to China, before it even got a foot in the door.

China Warns “Hostile Forces” Trying to Undermine Military Reform

Ben Blanchard
Reuters
After protests erupted in Beijing over lay-offs, China's military warned that "hostile forces" were spreading damaging online rumors...

Beijing: Facebook & Google Can Come Back to China as long as They “Respect China’s Laws”

Josh Horwitz and Echo Huang Yinyin
Quartz
Both companies still have business-facing services in China, but consumer-facing services have been blocked for years.

China’s Internet Child-Safety Policies Could Force Changes at Tech Firms

Eva Dou and Li Yuan
Wall Street Journal
Tech companies doing business in China might have to adjust operations to comply with proposed rules

Alibaba Dethrones Baidu in China’s Digital Advertising Market

Uptin Saiidi
CNBC
Mobile ads are witnessing quick growth, but not everyone is in for a win this year.

Is Huawei Doing Enough to Train Local Staff in Africa?

Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden & more
The Chinese telecom giant Huawei recently launched a massive publicity campaign to raise awareness in Africa about what it is doing to train local employees. The company has opened at least five training centers in different countries across the...