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.
One of the topics favored most by Chinese tech people is which city, or region, in China will become the next “Silicon Valley”. While observers have not gotten bored of guessing which one will be the next “unicorn” company, those who are really in startup companies have realized the fact that the China startup scene has peaked: many companies have died, using up the money given by investors but keeping no loyal users at all. Read our story about China’s startup bubbles and find how these bubbles, blown up by ambitious yet empty ideas, business plans and investors’ ignorance, finally fall and burst.
Imagine when you walk in a shopping mall, a mobile advertisement pops up on your phone, giving you a coupon on exactly what you planned to buy. Or speaking to your friend about an interesting ad you saw on Facebook then discovering, to your surprise, that your friend is also interested in buying that exact product—that’s the beauty of well-designed marketing, thanks to big data. Professor Ghose at Stern Business School analyzes what consumers do with their smartphones and how businesses can tailor effective offers that occur at the optimal time, while also ensuring that information exchange is a healthy two-way street.
Traffic in major cities around the world is deteriorating. Jerry Sanders, CEO of SkyTran, believes that the solution lies above the road, not on it. SkyTran, a NASA-backed company, has been developing a personal rapid transportation system with small, computer-controlled Maglev capsules running on elevated rails. The capsule-shaped car looks futuristic, but the company has already built a demonstration system in Tel Aviv and is currently building a commercial system in Abu Dhabi. Is elevated transit a practical solution for traffic jams? How will it fit into our cities and existing infrastructure? Will it replace traditional means of transportation?
China is taking on some of the most expensive big science projects, for example, the world’s largest radio telescope and a particle accelerator that researches the world’s most elusive particles. Are these science projects only there to display the country’s monetary power or will they help to restore the country’s past glory of an ancient civilization with a high level of advancement? And will this make China a better place for scientists?