China’s Internet Boom

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Online experimentation doesn’t have to be limited to tech companies.

Edward Jung It’s tempting to portray the rapid growth of the Chinese Internet as just one more example of China’s efforts to catch up with the West: Alibaba is the eBay of China, Baidu is the Google of China, Didi is the Uber of China, and so on. But China is actually conducting some fascinating experiments with the Internet (see “The Best and Worst Internet Experience in the World“). You just need to look outside the tech sector to notice them.

The most significant innovation is happening not among Chinese Internet companies but in the country’s so-called “real” economy. Corporations in old-school sectors like construction, agriculture, transportation, and banking are pursuing new business models based on big data, social media, and the Internet of things.

These are some of the largest firms of their kind in the world, yet many are young enough to be helmed by their original owner/founders. They’re like ­Rockefeller, Ford, or Carnegie with access to smartphones.

So it’s China’s largest residential-­property developer—not a tech company—that is pioneering the integration of Internet-based technology and services into fully wired communities. Vanke wants to create urban hubs that supply residents with gardens, safe food, travel, entertainment, and medical and educational services, all enabled by the Internet.

China’s insurance and banking industries have also embraced the Internet. Firms like Ping An Insurance recognized early on the opportunity to build customized models for risk assessment based on information gleaned from 24/7 tracking of physical and online activities.

Regulatory and finance structures in the West militate against this kind of experimentation, but China’s corporate culture encourages the broad reach…(read more)

Edward Jung is the founder and chief technology officer of Intellectual Ventures.

MIT Technology Review



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