If your smartphone is from China, ‘Phone Commerce’ is most common through the messaging app. It is home to Huawei, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Shiomi, and is also home to huge investments in AI, 5G, self-driving cars, robotics, electric vehicles and even Mars. Here are some ways in which rising high-tech China is at the forefront of the rest of the world.
1. A ‘Super-App’
The population of China is 1.4 billion. Of these, 1.1 billion are using WeChat. Take a moment. Globally, Facebook has 2.4 billion users. WhatsApp has 300 million. In China, WeChat (called vixen in Mandarin, which translates as ‘micro-message’) – especially the tech giant (and the world’s fifth largest) is the Tencent-owned messaging service – how people interact… with everything and everyone.
Along with social media, WeChat serves as a mobile payment app, scanning the QR code in the app to make transactions with all retailers – including buses and metros in China. It can be used to book flights and hotels as easily as buying food from a supermarket or street vendor. WeChat balance is now the primary way to pay and receive money in China. Who needs banks?
It has a rival – Alibaba’s Alipay – but with 79% of the market penetrating in China, WeChat is known as China’s ‘digital life force’ but has failed to gain popularity worldwide. It seems to be the fifth most-used app in the world after Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger… but it’s ahead of all that can be done.
China is moving fast. We have all heard stories of how fast its construction companies are working, especially in the building of a 57-storey skyscraper in 19 working days. But these are China’s other mega-tech projects. Take its bullet trains. Japan is still considered the home of the bullet train with its famous shinkansen, but for the past 15 years the Chinese Railway has built a much wider network of high-speed (CRH) and made its own fixing-class bullet trains.
Now the world’s longest high-speed railway network, China’s bullet trains travel between 155–217 mph. Land at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and you can also sample the future of the ultra-high-speed trail in Shanghai Maglev, a magnetic levitation train that reaches 267 mph.
There are plenty of other megatech projects in China. There is the Three Gorges Dam, a hydroelectric gravity dam that stretches into the Yangtze River and is the world’s largest power station. The Aizai suspension bridge, the world’s tallest and longest suspension bridge and the 16-mile Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge, makes land on two artificial islands. Don’t forget the Shanghai Tower and the world’s largest single dish radio telescope (fast) at 2,073 feet.
What’s more, China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is looking at investing $ 6 trillion in major construction projects such as highways, ports and airports in its neighboring countries.
3. 5G networks and AI
How does 5G work for you so far? After the advertising buzz around 2019 around various network launches, the fuss has subsided. Why? There is really no 5G in the UK and US outside city centers, that is why. Cue China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom have come up with plans to offer high-speed connectivity.
No wonder, China has one of the largest 5G deployments in the world. 5G is already available in 50 cities in China and 130,000 5G base stations are going live. What’s more, China also accounts for two-thirds of global investment into Artificial Intelligence (AI), recently replaced by the US. When it comes to cutting-edge technology, it’s all about China.
4. Dockless bike sharing
ike sharing schemes are now available in thousands of cities around the world. You get the app, sign up, pick up a bike from the rack, use it and give it back. Easy. So why is China going the more high-tech route?
Dockless Bike hire has the latest craze, which eliminates the need for a physical central hub and instead uses virtual mapping, Bluetooth and GPS driven geofencing to find out where they are. Mobike in Shanghai – which has about 1.5 million dockless bikes – has an app that tells riders where they can and can’t park their bikes with them. If they leave them in random places, the bike will be alarmed and they will receive a text message alert. The spread of 5G will only help such schemes.
5. Electric vehicles
Nobody says China is an environmentally friendly country. It has a bad reputation for pollution and it uses half of the world’s concrete. However, it is already the largest market for battery powered cars in the world, the largest manufacturer and buyer of electric vehicles.
It makes almost all electric buses in the world. In short, the electric vehicle revolution is already underway, and China is owning it. Your first electric car? It could possibly be from China.
6. A prestigious space program
hina now launches more rockets every year than any other country, and although the Western media routinely dismisses it, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) – China’s NASA – is definitely going places.
It does not have NASA’s budget, but in 2019 it landed a spacecraft and lunar rover on the far side of the moon, with excellent scientific returns. Not even NASA does that. If all goes to plan in 2020, the CNSA will scoop-up its Chang-5 mission some moon rock and launch it back to Earth. Then it will launch a new space station. Finally, it sends its hooking mission to Mars.
What’s more, all this is happening with the huge space rockets designed and built in China alone. When it comes to technology, China is ahead of most of the world.