Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Flat World Update 1-24-07

Just a quickie. According to this article from China Daily:
China is expected to overtake the United States to have the world's largest Internet population within two years . . . The CNNIC report found that Internet access in China is going increasingly broadband and mobile. The country had 90.7 million broadband users by 2006, up 41.1 percent year-on-year. And about 17 million mobile phones users are now using their handsets to access the Web.
Of course they still have a long way to go to match the percentage in the U.S., and there's that "minor" issue of censorship (one of the recent examples), but it's still worth noting. I think a lot of folks are almost taking comfort in China's lack of openness at the moment, counting on that to "protect" Western nations and economies. What if China actually does what we say we want them to do and becomes a more open, democratic society? What if the great firewall of China comes down?


  1. This comment is from Jeff Utecht who blogs at The Thinking Stick. Jeff teaches in Shanghai. His comment explains why I'm posting this for him.
    (OK, so this just brings home my point. When to sign up for a blogger account so I could leave comments on your blog, but can't because it keeps redirecting me back to the Chinese language login. Google has done something since the line was cut due to the Earthquake. It's the only e-mail system that is still working. HHHHMMMM....anyway, wanted to add my 2cents...add if you feel like sharing with others. Thanks!)


    First I can't believe you're reading the China Daily. :)

    I once again went down to the technology area here in Shanghai this weekend. Let me try and describe it to you. There are 4 buildings all 4 or 5 stories that have any and every technological component you can imagine. That's not what fascinates me though. What catches my attention every time is the 100s of little shops that are ALWAYS packed with people custom making their new computers. It would be interesting to know just in my favorite building alone, how many computers are sold daily. All I know is to just stand and watch in a crowded technology store, where you can't move and get shoved all the time that everything you say in this post is probably close to the truth.

    As for cell phones. Much like Saudi Arabia when I was there, China is moving mobile faster than laying new POT lines. Easier...probably cheaper...and you can buy knockoff cell phones for about 60RMB ($8). A SIM card cost 50RMB ($7) and refill cards are cheap as well.

    And then you have the Internet. I have a 1MB line for $15/month, and it's included in my rent. Getting a line to your house is expensive, but once it's there rates are cheap.

    Firewall. I've talked to some of our Chinese Techies and asked them if the majority of Chinese know about it. They all just smile at me and say: "If you have a computer and know about it." Which probably means they know away around it if they want to...which I'm thinking most don't as most Chinese language sites are based here in China. Other than sites like wikipedia (which is blocked) the common Chinese, I would guess, has no or very little need to be on the other side of the firewall. It is us expats and businesses I think that suffer more than the average Chinese. At the end of the day though I think the world would be surprised at the connectivity of the Chinese people. The numbers you give come from the Government. With services like Technorati now being blocked here, systems like that can not truly monitor how many blogs, or connections, or traffic is really coming from this country. So we rely on the government for the figures...which can be misleading at times.

    Business people here say Shanghai and China have another good 10 years of growth. That puts us at 2017...pretty close to your 2020 vision. What role will China play in the future? I don't know, but more Chinese students took the SAT in English last year than did Americans. Every other corner has a table set up that has promotions for learning to speak English. They are hungry for a piece of the pie and they're going after it!

    Jeff Utecht

  2. The fact that the two of you are communicating about this from Colorado and Shanghai proves your point!