WeChat is not just a messaging app. With nearly a billion active users, it is used to make voice calls, play games, read news, hail cars and more. With WeChat Pay, people use the app to send money and pay bills by scanning a QR code, and friends and families use WeChat to send lucky money during festivals. For many, WeChat is already indispensable. How did the company grow? What were the key decisions and strategies? In the fierce competition between WeChat pay and Alibaba’s Alipay, who will win? There are many questions about WeChat, but the app’s success is certain—for now.
Online social networks are changing Chinese professional culture—simply sending out resumes to get a job is inadequate. Compared to Americans, young Chinese spend more time networking and leverage social sites to find jobs. Recruiters are active participants in this trend. As a Shanghai-based employer says: “I don’t even call people anymore.” Instead of waiting for resumes that may contain dull business mug-shots, employers look at applicants’ social profiles, chatting to ones they find interesting and learn about their business and leisure time and maybe, if lucky, get a rough idea of their personality.
Education in China has undergone sweeping changes since 1980. A major change is the emerging popularity of elite private schools. Different from public schools under China’s 9-year free compulsory education, many elite private schools, with expat teachers and small classes, have western-style curriculum and focus on developing students’ creative abilities. Newly-affluent families favoring private schools are willing to pay tuitions ranging from $36,000 to $72,000 per year and they believe children in these private schools are also from well-off families. The trend has also attracted investors from other industries, with big firms like Vanke and Alibaba investing billions in private schools.
With a growing economy and the world’s largest population, China has for decades been a key destination for foreign companies expanding abroad, but the difficulties of doing business here have never been small. In the past few years, however, China has in some respects become an increasingly risky place to do business, in part because of the Chinese government’s efforts to modernize regulations and crack down on bad actors. In this interview, senior partner Kent Kedl at Control Risks explains how the challenge is not only for foreign companies to understand and comply with new rules, but to make compliance into a competitive advantage.
NetEase is the Chinese internet pioneer you have probably never heard of. Founded in 1997, before its bigger and better-known Chinese internet peers Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (collectively known as BAT), it is largely unknown outside of China. NetEase is currently making big pushes into many new businesses: e-commerce, online learning, music streaming and a host of other businesses, but it still has a long way to go to climb back to the top of the China tech tree. Analysts note that NetEase lacks the breadth of its rivals’ businesses, and that will likely stymie its growth, unless it can continue to diversify successfully.
After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this year, Donald Trump backtracked and dropped his accusation of China being a currency manipulator. But the issue of currency manipulation is still debatable. The RMB is certainly not a free-floating currency and the controls are complex. China’s central bank sets the daily rate with movements only allowed in a narrow 2% band. This did not change for years, until August 2015 when the central bank reformed a bit by beginning to set the daily RMB rates based on the closing value of the previous day’s interbank forex market. But it’s not considered a major change and the way to achieve a more open currency remains difficult.
Back in 2014, Stephen Hawking warned that people should be careful about artificial intelligence (AI)—the full development of it could spell the end of the human race, he said. Brad Nelson, professor of robotics and intelligent systems at ETH Zürich, is optimistic about the technology’s development. To him, machines and robotics are augmenting instead of replacing the human workforce. In this interview with CKGSB Knowledge, Nelson talks about the state of AI so far, China’s advantages in this industry and, as an engineer, his insights into the relation between humans and machines.
China’s property market was virtually non-existent 25 years ago, but it is now one of the most critical pillars in this country and the source of incredible wealth for many of China’s citizens. Last year property prices in China’s tier one cities made another gravity-defying leap last year. By September, new home prices had jumped 27.8% in Beijing, 32.7% in Shanghai and a meteoric 34.1% in Shenzhen year-on-year. The health of this pillar remains a top concern of the government and citizens alike. But is there a looming crisis? In the near term, the answer seems to be no.
China’s business world is littered with rags-to-riches entrepreneurs—Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, was an English teacher before starting Alibaba. Not all such magnates are equal, however, and joining Ma in the upper echelons of China’s rich list was Wang Wei, chairman of delivery and logistics company SF Express, who initially started out by lugging packages between Hong Kong and mainland China, operating in a legal gray zone as he did so. But now SF Express has grown to become the most successful logistics company in China. Listed in Shenzhen Stock Exchange in early 2017, the company has many competitive advantages over its counterparts.
Fifteen years ago, pet ownership was seen as a pastime enjoyed only by the rich, but today more and more Chinese families are hosting fluffy friends. In China, 73.2% of pet owners fall into the 20–35-year-old category, meaning the vast majority of pet owners are not retired people who have spare time, but the young professionals who tend to be more generous on spending money on their pets—for their food, toy and spiritual needs. China’s pet economy is growing like never before, and the trend will only continue.