There’s something irritating about the way the western media choose to describe products coming out of China. It always amazes me how any ‘clone’ product that comes out of the west is marked as fair competition but whenever China comes out with a similar piece of technology the west screams foul play and words like ‘shanzhai’ (山寨, meaning ‘pirated goods’) get thrown around.
Take the iPad for example. A new, trendy device from a successful, well-branded company that is sure to be a success. Competitors have been planning devices similar to the iPad for as long as the iPad has been in development. Companies like Google, HP, and Dell are all chasing Apple’s tail desperate to get their hands on a slice of the tablet market. But what about Chinese companies? They have a country with an ever-growing, aspirational middle class, surely it’s a good idea for them to develop similar tablet products also?
You only have to flick through the net and take a look at some of the headlines to realise just how biased the media is against Chinese technology. It’s slightly funny at best, and fosters xenophobia and trade protectionism at worst.
|Google preparing iPad rival (Gizmodo)||China’s half priced iPad clone (A PC Mag)|
|A first look at Google’s ‘iPad killer’ (Huffington Post)||Chinese iPad clone released three months before Apple’s (The Next Web)|
|Upcoming alternatives to the Apple iPad (Mashable)||iPad clone wars: China unveils Android-based iPad knockoff (dvice.com)|
|HP takes on Apple’s iPad with Slate tablet (Computer World)||Chinese clone the iPad, add a keyboard (Crunch Gear)|
|Five reasons HP ‘Hurricane’ can compete with the iPad (Computer World Australia)||Moonse, a Chinese iPad ripoff running on Android OS (Obront)|
|Dell’s Mini 5 tablet: Dell’s answer to the Apple iPad? (zdnet.com)||China’s knockoff iPads have no one fooled…or do they? (Crunch Gear)|
Ok, ok…I’m the first to admit that Chinese companies are slightly more conspicuous in their cloning of technology (take the aptly named ‘iPed’ for example), but the way the iPad, its relatives and the media describe these products bring up many interesting ethical questions relating to trade protectionism, intellectual property, what exactly constitutes a ‘clone’ and responsibility in journalism.
I’m a sucker for numbers. Here’s a little table comparing internet use in China and the US. If you would like sources for any of the stats let me know.
|Number of internet users||384,000,000||227,719,000|
|% of world users||20.8%||13.1%|
|Mobile internet users||73,050,000||79,000,000|
|Users of SNS||176,000,000 (all users)||55,600,000 (adults logging onto SNS at least once a month)|
|Number of online shoppers||108,000,000||139,000,000|
|Value of online shopping transactions||US$36.5 billion||US$100 billion|
|Online spending growth (projected 2010)||36%||5.5%|
|% male users||54.9%||48.2%|
|% female users||45.1%||51.8%|
|% users under 25||51.2%||24.6%|
|Google search market share||35.6%||72%|
|Value of internet advertising market (2008)||US$1.95 billion||US$23 billion|
Just days after Google China’s announcement, Goojje.com caused a bit of a stir after setting up a search engine that looked somewhat familiar. The website used a combination of Google and Baidu’s search technology and the site’s logo was remarkably similar to that of Google’s. According to China Daily, the site was set up for just $4,400 and attracted around three million page views a day in the early days of its launch.
I decided to pop over to Goojje to see what those IP thieves guys were up to and it looks like the site has been (temporarily?) closed. The site has an announcement (in Chinese) that says the website has been targeted by hackers. The announcement roughly reads:
Unfortunately Goojje has been targeted by unknown hackers and over the past five days our server has been seriously disrupted…although we have no idea who the hackers are, Goojje would like to say we will continue to strive for our ideals. Goojje will not give up to [the hackers'] threats, we will not give up waging this struggle, we will continue to glisten.
There you have it.
This development comes just days after Google threatened legal action against Goojje. Goojje insisted they would not close the site and several lawyers had offered free assistance to the company should it wish to fight Google’s copyright infringement claims.
Hilarious little video for you today. Hitler finds out Vegemite is changing its name to iSnack 2.0 and has a rant at marketers.
China’s leading video site Youku (think China’s YouTube) announced yesterday that it would be implementing a new copyright identification management platform increasing the company’s capability of preventing the uploading of material that infringes copyright laws.
The release also states:
The pioneering introduction of this copyright identification system in China will effectively accelerate the industry’s movement toward legitimate content, and will serve as an important protective measure for the Internet video industry.
I believe this is a groundbreaking step forward in mainland China and a big leap for intellectual property protection in general. Currently a vast amount of content is available on Youku that infringes the copyrights of companies both in China and abroad. Hundreds of English websites like SurftheChannel have popped up in recent years linking to US television shows hosted on Youku that users can watch for free. China’s lenience towards intellectual property on the internet is not just a domestic problem but a global one.
This puts a substantial amount of pressure on other video providers like Tudou and will hopefully lead to more internet companies on the mainland implementing similar systems to provide their users with legitimate content. The question is, will users just migrate to other video providers that fail to monitor the content uploaded onto their websites? Only time will tell.
What do you think?
Not a day has gone past lately without some kind of Baidu/Google China drama. Just as Baidu may be rejoicing after Google’s shock announcement last week, it seems China’s leading search engine may be having some problems of their own.
Baidu’s has officially announced CTO Yinan Li has decided to resign. The move comes just 10 days after Baidu’s COO Peng Ye quit the company.
According to the insiders, Yinan Li has decided to leave Baidu due to ‘personal reasons’. The CTO will take a post at China Mobile.
Baidu and Yinan Li were unavailable for comment.
Updates to follow.