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Global Tech Government Innovation

China is No Longer a Technology Copycat or Underdog

Kevin Zhou grew up in China and came to the US in 2009 to study. He's now a seasoned tech journalist who travels between the US and China and works to explain the different tech cultures to one another. He sees China as having moved into a decisive new stage as a champion of innovation, and says the tech competition between the two countries has changed completely.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Beijing Cracks Down on Video and E-Commerce

It seems like I write about the latest Internet crackdown far too often these days, as Beijing focuses on a wide range of industries where it wants to clean up what it sees as unhealthy business practices. Another two such crackdowns are in the headlines as we head into spring, one in the scandal-wracked e-commerce space and the other in online video. Both crackdowns actually began earlier, and these latest moves just show the regulators don’t feel that their job is finished yet.   More

Global Tech

Smart Car Race Speeds Up in China

China is quickly living up to its copycat reputation in the smart car space, with the latest word that Tencent will enter the business in a tie-up with Taiwanese contract manufacturing giant Foxconn. That pair are following Google into the area, but they certainly aren’t the first Chinese to mimic the world’s largest Internet company. That distinction would probably go to Chinese Internet search leader Baidu, which last year announced its own smart car initiative that was also back in the headlines this week as CEO Robin Li discussed the plan. Yet another similar initiative is also in the headlines today, as online video sensation LeTV discussed its own plans to show off its first smart car at the Shanghai auto show next month. This kind of copycatting and bandwagon mentality has become all too common among China’s Internet companies, who all worry about getting left behind by the competition.   More

Business

Chinese Net Giants Head Towards U.S.

Just a day after I wrote that online gaming giant Tencent may be planning a major new drive into the U.S., we’re hearing that its top rival NetEase is also moving into the neighborhood with plans for a new California R&D center. NetEase’s move comes after search leader Baidu and Tencent both set up U.S. offices last year, though only Baidu actually announced a major new product development center. All of these moves represent the Chinese companies’ efforts to tap into the Silicon Valley ethos, which has far more of the skills they will need in their quest to enter global markets outside of China.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Tencent’s WeChat Trounces Alibaba at Chinese New Year

I remember a time not long ago when we China tech reporters used to write annual stories about the number of people who sent billions of simple Lunar New Year text greetings over their mobile phones. Those days now seem like a distant memory, and new data from Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Alipay are showing just how small those earlier figures were, even though they seemed impressive at the time. But the real story in this new tide of “red envelope grabbing wars” is the huge victory for Tencent over Alibaba.   More

Global Tech

Five of China’s Top Ten Richest Are Techies

The headlines are buzzing about the latest Hurun Report listing the richest people in China, which has a decidedly tech flavor this year that hints at trouble ahead for the overcharged Internet sector. The report has become a gold standard for gauging the latest business trends in China, but is also famous for focusing on industries that have become overheated. That’s not too surprising, since it’s often such overheating that leads to huge surges in company share prices, which are most often the main foundation for calculating individuals’ wealth. This year half of the top 10 richest men in China come from the tech sector.   More

Business Global Tech

Tencent Beats Alibaba to Banking License

Earlier reports of e-commerce leader Alibaba’s strong political ties appear to be overstated, following word that archrival Tencent has become the first of China’s major Internet firms to win a highly sought banking license. Both companies had been aggressively expanding into financial services over the past year, though each was reliant on partnerships with other companies that already had licenses to offer services in the highly regulated sector dominated by big state-run companies. But now Tencent will be able to offer many of those services on its own, following this ground-breaking award of a license from the nation’s banking regulator.   More

Global Tech

How Tencent Uses WeChat to Target Alibaba

Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s worries about the rapid rise of mobile instant messaging service WeChat appear to be well founded, with word that Tencent’s wildly popular platform will create an exclusive shopping channel for Alibaba’s chief rival JD.com. This kind of deal must certainly be Ma’s biggest nightmare, as it will instantly link JD, China’s second largest e-commerce company, with the hundreds of millions of young Chinese who regularly use WeChat to communicate. What’s more, WeChat has shown itself quite capable of converting its users into shoppers who could easily become JD customers.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

NetEase Moves into U.S., Vipshop Tries Russia

Two of China’s leading Internet companies are taking their first baby steps outside their home market, with word that online game maker NetEase is moving into the U.S. and fast-rising discount e-commerce firm Vipshop is tying up with a Russian partner. The pair are joining China’s “big 3″ Internet firms, Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, in making recent moves outside their home market, as each looks for new growth opportunities. All of these companies also want to convince the world that they can compete in the real world outside their own highly protected and heavily restricted home market.   More

Finance Global Tech

Alibaba Changes IPO Course, Heads For New York

All my previous predictions that e-commerce leader Alibaba would ultimately make its mega IPO in Hong Kong were wrong, with word that the company is now firmly fixed on New York for its highly anticipated share sale. In my defense, I should say that a huge surge in positive sentiment over the last 5 months towards China Internet stocks on Wall Street undoubtedly helped change Alibaba’s mind. The company had previously stated on numerous occasions that Hong Kong was the preferred venue for its blockbuster IPO, which reports are now saying could raise up to $15 billion, making it the world’s biggest Internet offering since Facebook raised $16 billion in 2012.   More

Global Tech

Tencent-JD Tie-Up Takes Aim at Alibaba

The new week is just beginning, but it could well go down as a pivotal moment in Chinese Internet history with Tencent’s new announcement of an e-commerce alliance with JD.com that could threaten the dominance of sector leader Alibaba. The tie-up, which was first rumored last month, will see Tencent pay $215 million for 15 percent of JD.com, which will also receive some of Tencent’s e-commerce assets including a minority stake of its flagship Yixun.com B2C service. The companies will merge their e-commerce businesses, creating a new player with nearly a quarter of China’s B2C e-commerce market.   More

Global Tech

How WhatsApp Can Succeed in China

I haven’t written about Facebook in a while, mostly because the company hasn’t made any concrete moves into China lately despite previous assertions that it would like to enter the market. But the company’s purchase of the popular WhatsApp mobile messaging service for up to $19 billion looks like a good opportunity to revisit the topic, and what this deal might mean for Facebook in China. Facebook’s own site has been blocked in China since 2009, making it inaccessible to the vast majority of more than 600 million Chinese Web surfers. But WhatsApp is widely available, even though it competes with the wildly popular rival WeChat service from local Internet giant Tencent.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

WeChat Wrings Money From Unicom, Wangfujing

Much has been written about the meteoric rise of Tencent’s WeChat mobile instant messaging service, with many drawing parallels to the equally rapid ascent of Sina’s Weibo microblogging service starting in 2010. But while Sina has struggled to wring money out of Weibo, Tencent is having much more success with WeChat, as evidenced by news of its latest commercial tie-ups with retailer Wangfujing Department Store and mobile carrier China Unicom. I have a lot of respect for Sina, which has emerged as a leading information provider in China since it first went public in 2000. But the company has shown itself less adept at earning money, unlike Tencent, which has proven much more skillful at milking cash from its innovative core social networking service (SNS) products.   More

Global Tech

Web Firms Flock to Routers, China Mobile Goes Global

First it was smartphones, then it was Internet TV, and now wireless routers have become the latest flavor of the day for Chinese Web firms, as everyone looks to drive traffic to their sites and services in the fast-evolving market. I previously wrote when security software specialist Qihoo 360 entered the router space in June, and now a new report says smartphone maker Xiaomi, search leader Baidu, and game specialist Shanda are preparing to enter the sector as well. Meanwhile, in a separate but related telecoms move, leading telco China Mobile is making a feeble move into the international market with a relaunch of its Jego service that it suspended shortly after an original roll-out earlier this year.   More

Global Tech

Xiaomi Steals Google Exec on Road to Global Stage

Most of the world is buzzing with speculation about what prompted a top Google executive to defect to Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, but few are giving much credit to one of China’s hottest tech companies for luring Hugo Barra to join its ranks. Most media are focusing instead on an apparent love triangle between Google co-founder Sergey Brin and an unnamed current love interest, who just happens to be an ex-girlfriend of Barra. But instead, I would venture to guess that Barra’s departure has less to do with this titillating love story, and more to do with Xiaomi’s aggressive global aspirations   More

Business Global Tech

WeChat Faces U.S. Skeptics, Banking Friction

I’ve been traveling through Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau these last few days, so thought I’d end the week with a look at Tencent’s hugely popular WeChat mobile messaging service and the challenges it faces in its quest to go global and commercialize. I’ve been quite surprised by how widespread WeChat, known in Chinese as Weixin, has become in all three of these Chinese-speaking areas. But at the same time, comments from one of my industry friends also indicate Tencent could face an uphill battle winning acceptance in the US, where it could face heavy competition from rival products and skepticism due to its China connections. New media reports also indicate WeChat’s hyped new relationship with China Merchants Bank may also be running into problems, indicating the road to commercialization may not be as smooth as Tencent had hoped.   More

Business E-Commerce Global Tech

Baidu Eyes Group Buying With Nuomi

Barely a month goes by these days without rumor of a new acquisition target for Baidu, which suddenly seems anxious to buy up major assets in its bid to diversify beyond its core search business. The latest rumors say Baidu is close to a deal to purchase Nuomi, the group buying unit of social networking leader Renren. As one of China’s most profitable Internet companies, Baidu is hoping to take advantage of low valuations of Chinese Internet firms, many of which are running low on cash and have had trouble attracting interest from foreign investors.   More

E-Commerce Finance Global Tech

Alibaba Turns to Travel as Profit Zooms

Too much money isn’t always a good thing, as it often pressures companies to put that money to work even when good investment opportunities are limited. Baidu demonstrated that reality earlier this week with its purchase of an online app store that had little relationship with its core online search business, and now Alibaba is showing similar tendencies with its investment in an online travel services website. In Alibaba’s case, the new investment comes as the e-commerce leader posted a record second-quarter profit, and as it prepares for a blockbuster IPO that increasingly looks like it will take place in Hong Kong.   More

Business E-Commerce Global Tech

Tencent, eBay in Potent Partnership

After its first attempt to develop the China e-commerce market failed miserably nearly a decade ago, US Internet giant eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) is making some smarter moves this time around by choosing better partners and also by building up its business more gradually. In the company’s latest China development, media are reporting eBay has formed a new joint venture with Chinese Internet giant Tencent (HKEx: 700). At the same time, separate reports are saying that eBay may fail in its bid to become the first foreign licensee to offer electronic payment services in China.   More

Government Opinion

Did Obama Just Destroy the U.S. Internet Industry?

News about the National Security Agency's PRISM program and its privileged access to internal user data at nine U.S. Internet companies has unleashed a torrent of justified anger and hand-wringing. But the worries do not go far enough. Almost everybody is still looking at this through a narrow domestic lens. Our values and goals may be more challenged than you think.   More