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From the West it’s fair competition, from China it’s ‘shanzhai’

May 28, 2010

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.

Western Competitor
Chinese Competitor
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  (
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? ( China’s knockoff iPads have no one fooled…or do they? (Crunch Gear)

A Chinese iPad clone

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.

Internet use in China and the United States

February 14, 2010

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.

China USA
Population 1,325,639,982 304,059,724
Number of internet users 384,000,000 227,719,000
Growth (2000-2009) 1,500% 138.8%
Penetration 26.9% 72.4%
% 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

Goojje targeted by ‘unknown’ hackers

February 10, 2010

Just days after Google China’s announcement, 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.

Hitler’s iSnack 2.0 rant

January 31, 2010

Hilarious little video for you today.  Hitler finds out Vegemite is changing its name to iSnack 2.0 and has a rant at marketers.

Is change in the air?

January 20, 2010

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?

Social media campaign of the day: 32,000 to go

January 19, 2010

Heather Snodgrass (@likeomg), one of Australia’s social media darlings, helped put together THIS wonderful campaign to help Oasis Youth Support Network (part of the Salvation Army) get 32,000 young people off Australia’s streets.

Aptly named ‘32,000 to go’, the campaign is working together with Boost Mobile to raise funding and awareness.  The mobile carrier donates one dollar for every person joining Boost Mobile’s Facebook and Twitter groups. The team have also put together some short video clips telling the stories of youths who have been helped by Oasis YSN.

This is another great example of how charities and NGOs are working with the private sector to raise awareness and generate funding through social media in Australia. It is also a great case of companies using social media as an integral part of their CSR efforts.

Follow @boostmobile on Twitter, join their Facebook group and spread the word! Donating a dollar to a worthy cause has never been so easy!

PS. If you like food as much as I do, Heather’s blog is also a great read.

Baidu’s CTO Yinan Li resigns

January 18, 2010

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.

Source article in Chinese.

The Great Australian Firewall: Will Google Abandon Australia?

January 17, 2010

It’s difficult to think of two countries more different than Australia and China. In fact, it’s difficult to think of anything the two countries have in common.  It seems, however, they may soon have one shared characteristic to brag about: a controlling internet censorship system that limits free speech and inhibits the free flow of information.

On December 15, 2009 it was announced by the Australian Labor Party that new legislation entitled “Measures to improve safety of the internet for families”, would be introduced to support mandatory internet filtering. These proposed laws on internet censorship are sometimes referred to as the Great Australian Firewall, Rabbit Proof Firewall, Firewall Australia or Great Firewall Reef (sorry Aussies, it just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Great Firewall’).  If all goes according to plan, the legislation should be implemented in the Autumn of this year aiming to target sites on controversial topics such as euthanasia and racism- along with a host of video games.

Having lived in China for three years, I know all too well how slippery the slope can be. From the beginning to the end of my stay, I saw virtually everything that made the internet what it is gradually get placed behind the Great Firewall: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blogger, WordPress- the list goes on.  Although people in favour of the legislation will claim Australia’s firewall is not as high or as far-reaching as China’s, it raises interesting ethical questions on who should decide what internet content should be blocked and on what grounds. At what p0int does blocking internet content start ‘protecting’ families at the expense of free speech?

Perhaps PM Kevin Rudd has spent too long in China over the years, but I believe western countries cannot preach civil liberties to developing countries when they fail to practice these building blocks of society themselves. Will Google threaten to withdraw from Australia when it begins censoring its internet?  I didn’t think so. Will Amnesty Australia implement a social media campaign of the same scale as its campaign last year against China’s Great Firewall?  I doubt it.

The Great Australian Firewall is just another example of western hypocrisy- and just another reason for China to rightly resent the west.

Sign the petition against internet censorship in Australia here.

And here’s a clever little video that made me smile after my 20 minute rant.

Chinese Whispers

January 15, 2010

Drama, drama, drama. Everyone I know is fascinated by the Google China story. Here are five Google China rumors currently doing the rounds on Twitter. But as we all know, Twitter can be somewhat like Chinese whispers (pardon the pun), so please take these with a pinch of salt.

Tweet 1: All Google staff told Google China will close, State Council to decide punishment for Google tonight. (via @lonsonlo)

Tweet 2: Google (or parts of it) departing China within two months. (from Techweb)

Tweet 3: A Google employee told us their office in China went dark. No emails, calls or contact. (via @percychow)

Tweet 4: Google to help China staff get green cards for three year employment contracts. (from ChinaSMACK)

Tweet 5: Google and China working to salvage carriers’ Android plans. (from iPhonAsia)

Five Opinions on the Google China Announcement

January 15, 2010

As you probably all know, Google made an announcement that it would no longer be willing to censor its searches after discovering the Gmail accounts of human rights dissidents had been breached. Rumours and speculation are, of course, rife over whether there are other reasons as to why Google may be leaving China.

Here are the top 5 views from brainy people on Google China’s announcement:

1. William Moss, Imagethief: China has broken just about every rule in the book for corporate communications in China

Google has taken the China corporate communications playbook, wrapped it in oily rags, doused it in gasoline and dropped a lit match on it….Google has undertaken a bet-the-farm confrontational communications approach in China. They will not have made this decision lightly. Dressed up in the polite language above is what is essentially an ultimatum: Allow us to present uncensored search results to our Chinese users or we’ll walk. The Chinese government is not likely to cave to an ultimatum from a foreign company, no matter how decorously delivered.

2. George Godula, Web2Asia: Leaving a country with a market as big as China’s is global suicide for any company in the long run.

If the company would value ethical standards more than business standards it would have never entered China in the first place and played along to Chinese CENSORSHIP. Period. You cannot do business (by that I mean profit generating business) in China with Western ethical standards. If you deny that you either have no idea about China or are lying to yourself. Period. You either join the dark side of the force or stay out.

3. Jeremy Goldkorn, The Guardian: If Google cannot operate here in accordance with its international standards, it should leave.

The fallout will be interesting. I can’t recall a single case of a major international company with operations in China taking a stand like this. As someone who agreed with Google’s reasoning when it entered China, I also support this move. If it cannot operate here in accordance with its global standards, it should leave.

4. Douglas Rushkoff, The Daily Beast: Google is using the announcement to detract our attention away from the real issue: Google’s cloud computing system is easily hackable.

So it’s not that Google’s cloud computing technology is so easily hackable, it’s that Google’s misguided partnership with a repressive regime is so easily exploitable. My concern—for Google and for us—is that the reason they know it’s the Chinese government behind these attacks is because Google may have inadvertently given them the key.

5. Ethan Zuckermann, Harvard: Four possible explanations on why Google may be retreating from China.

Google decided to stop being evil.

Google retreated from a very tough market.

Google abandoned Chinese users.

Google is about to join the front lines of the anticensorship wars.