Sunday, January 28, 2007

Flat World Update 1-28-07

Another quickie. This article in the February 5th edition of Fortune magazine quotes Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP as saying:
China and the Internet are still the two biggest opportunities. I went to China six times last year. The government always underestimates growth. The government says China has 1.3 billion people. I think China actually has 1.5 billion people. The difference equals one Indonesia, or 32 Britains, or two-thirds of the U.S. So I think the opportunity in China is greater than most people believe. China Mobile has 300 million subscribers. Think about it. That's the population of the U.S.
I think this is interesting on several fronts. First, a presumably knowledgeable CEO and international businessperson thinks that China might be undercounting its population by 200 million people (that's approximately the same number of people that live in 45 of the 50 United States). That affects all those fun statistics in Did You Know, and also means their market is that much larger.

Second, one cellphone company in China has 300 million subscribers. What kind of influence does a company like that wield? If they decide to send out a particular ad, or market a particular product or service, or steer their users to a particular search engine or company, they can immediately contact the equivalent of every person in the United States. That's some serious marketing reach - and possibly some serious influence reach. And if China does open up their society, that's potentially 300 million folks with broadband, mobile access to the world fairly quickly (just one company implementing impacts 300 million people almost instantaneously).

Finally, and I'm not a historian or a political scientist so I say this fully knowing that I'm naive about these things and some folks will probably jump all over this thought, but how long can China censor the rest of the world when 300 million people have cellphones from one provider (and many more from other providers)? When the Berlin Wall came down, freedom flowed - seemingly unstoppable. If this one company dropped the filters, what would happen? (I know, the company is undoubtedly owned or at least controlled by the Chinese government, but remember the Berlin Wall was presumably "controlled" by the East German government.) I'm sure someone will disillusion me (can I use "disillusion" as a verb?), but I can't help but feel a little optimistic about the possibilities . . .

1 comment:

  1. I think that, when the filters stop, money will be an influence. If the Chinese government decides to halt its regulations, or even loosen them, it will immediately become a selling point. Companies will advertise having the least censored content, and hope that the new, undiluted information will attract more customers.