Why China's tech is leading the world
The city of Chongqing in southwest China sums up the country perfectly. It has a population of 30 million but many people outside of China have never heard of it.
I lived in China for three years and the level of technology there far exceeds what we’re used to here.
Even ‘small’ cities have great tech. Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province and has a population of nearly eight million people – the same as London.
When you go on the underground subway in Chengdu it’s not just the stations that have Wi-Fi but the individual carriages have their own Wi-Fi! There’s no password. Your phone just connects automatically so everyone is always on their phone.
I spent three years living in China. The first year was as part of my joint honors degree in Asia Pacific Studies and Mandarin at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and then I returned for another two years to work for the British Council as an English language assistant.
When it comes to technology in China the first thing to mention is the power of WeChat, which now has one billion monthly users.
One of the reasons why WeChat is so popular is the likes of Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are barred in China and the authorities believe their alternatives are ok.
WeChat started as a messaging app like WhatsApp, but they kept expanding it so you use WeChat Pay, which allows you to book everything from flights to hotel rooms. You can watch TV shows and movies on WeChat or stream music.
In the UK we have multiple apps to do what you can do on WeChat. It’s the reason you never close your WeChat app down. Chinese people only have a couple of apps. WeChat is the main one and a lot of people have an online photo-editing and sharing mobile app called FaceU.
Because everyone pays for things on their phone they don’t have bank cards. China almost skipped it. They went from being a cash-based economy to being entirely on their phones. In the UK we had contactless cards and then it went to phones.
The other thing to mention is connectivity, which is still a problem in parts of the UK. There are still people who can’t get a decent connection and that’s unheard of in China. Even in the mountains you have connectivity. You go into rural villages and the kids have got good Wi-Fi and decent data.
Of course everyone in China is aware that you’re being watched and that your messages are most likely being read, but it seems like a price most Chinese people are prepared to pay.
- Katherine Barr is the membership and events manager at pro-manchester