Chinese people love to try new technologies. Over the past year, virtual reality exploded across the country, attracting attention as well as investment from people who see a potential wave of the future: Analysts predict that China’s VR market will be worth $8.5 billion by 2020. But the real-world business of VR, which surged largely on the back of heavy investment, is less solid than it could be. Some people expect the technology to bring revolutionary changes to many industries like gaming, films and shopping but currently a huge portion of the VR market is still for video games and the business model is not yet solidly defined.
Digitalization has changed book reading, book production and book marketing, and it may ultimately even change the nature of books. Amazon’s Kindle e-reader sold out in 5.5 hours after it was first released in November 2007 and remained out of stock until April 2008. All over the world, a similar shift has been underway—slower in markets where bookstores and book sales are regulated, such as France and Germany; faster in more open markets, such as China, where more than 2 million digital book titles are now available and nearly half of all books sold are sold online. Yet surprisingly, most book buyers still end up with print books.
Most of us have heard that the secrets of our lives are hidden in our genes. As the technology advances, genetic tests have become common in certain situations, such as prenatal tests and medical treatment. Also, from genetic test results, professionals can read things like your personality, talent and health risks. Many Chinese companies, though with no intention of becoming “fortune tellers”, are luring people to do genetic tests and offer easy-to-read talent results–and public demand is running high. Startups are receiving millions in funds for making this technology accessible to ordinary people. But is the model of selling cheap genetic testing services sustainable? And are these tests accurate?
China is exporting its high-speed rail to the world. In Turkey, China helped link the capital, Ankara, with the largest city, Istanbul. In Indonesia, construction on the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway line will begin this year. In 2016, the government also announced that it will build a high-speed railway to connect Singapore with the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Domestically speaking, China has secured the leading position. Its network, already more than 20,000 km and still growing, is longer than the rest of the world’s high-speed rail tracks combined. Now China is targeting the overseas market for economic and political reasons.
Bitcoin, a virtual currency traded online, was not invented in China, yet China is where 80% of the virtual “coins” are minted and 90% of the transactions are made. Currently, the global bitcoin market amounts to some $14.5 billion, roughly the same amount of money as Apple’s European back taxes. If the virtual currency’s popularity continues to grow, decisions made by Chinese investors and regulators may determine whether bitcoin fades to a historical footnote, like Napster or the eight-track tape, or becomes the silicon cornerstone of a new global financial order. A combination of factors thrust China into this decisive role.
The Airlander 10, part plane and part airship, is the world’s longest aircraft in operation today. Roughly the size of a football field, it has a shape different from any airship of decades past. Developed by British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles, the Airlander 10 can ascend from anywhere with no need for an airport or runway and maintain a capacity of transporting a large amount of goods. According to Stephen McGlennan, CEO of HAV, over 100 million pounds has been invested in the project and it is preparing another test flight in the coming Spring, after it failed in a August test flight this year.
Baidu, China’s largest internet search engine, is having a hard time after a college student named Wei Zexi died after mistaking an advertisement on Baidu for an experimental cancer treatment for medically reliable information. Baidu was then accused of being “unethical”, failing to clearly delineate paid advertisements from search results. Months later, the Nasdaq listed company reported its worst quarterly earnings. With the increased competition from domestic players like Tencent and Alibaba and the downward pressure on online advertising, which contributes to over 90% of Baidu’s revenue, it is crucial for Baidu to diversify its business.
One could be forgiven for thinking that after purchasing Uber’s China operations, Didi Chuxing—which now boasts over 300 million users and over 80% of China’s market—would be on easy street. But things are never that simple in the Chinese market. Figures have shown Didi is losing users and drivers. Under strict Chinese local governments’ new policies, Didi may face bigger challenges than Uber China. Meanwhile more people cast doubts over its business model. Boasting a sharing economy model, car-pooling, the company now relies more on providing car-hailing services with prices lower than taxis to maintain its scale. Once the subsidies withdrew, users walk away.
Live streaming in China is not new. Even back in 2005 there were live streaming businesses based on the PC, but it was not until 2014 that this industry really started to take off in the Chinese market, as China’s almost 700 million internet users became aware that mobile live-streaming is fun and can even be profitable. China’s internet giant companies have long recognized that live streaming is going to be the new portal to bring in traffic, so just like their competition in other battle fields, Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba have spread their tentacles to live streaming and mapped out their respective businesses.
China is keen to deploy self-driving cars for the same reasons as everyone else is: Autonomous vehicles may significantly improve traffic and environmental conditions. According to research figures, widespread adoption of automated vehicles could reduce automobiles on city streets by 60%, vehicle emissions by 80% and traffic accidents by 90%. While the West has superior technology, its governments lack the authority to swiftly implement massive infrastructure projects. Some experts believe Beijing’s top-down control capabilities could even give China an edge over the US and Europe in the race to develop self-driving cars.