Social Media in China
- Almost 500 million Chinese citizens are online and a quarter of all social network users in the world are Chinese.
- However, due to bureaucratic government policies in china, many western social networking sites such as facebook and twitter are blocked. As a result, a vibrant domestic ecosystem of similar online platforms has emerged.
- In 2003, China’s ministry of public security began ‘The Golden Shield Project’, an attempt to put controls over internet use in place and prevent sharing of information that could threaten national security, disclose state secrets, or damage the government’s reputation.
- The most notable sites that were blocked included: Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google docs, Vimeo, The Huffington Post, and many more…
Firstly let us be straight about the term "Chinese Netizens.”
Since the introduction of the internet in China in 1994, the size of the Chinese mobile and PC internet population has somewhat blossomed.
At the end of 2008 China had 298 million Netizens, 22.6% of the whole population of the country, according to CNNIC.net. This number went up to 485 million in July, 2011.
So "Chinese Netizens" refers to 485 million people who regularly go online whether it be on a mobile device or PC.
The amount of time spent online has increased to the point that internet addiction is an official clinical disorder with Internet Addiction boot camps around China.
There have even been instances where parents have sold their children to fund playing games at internet cafes.
It is not uncommon these days for Chinese Netizens to band together in their millions and, for example, expose corruption or solve hit and run incidents and then publically humiliate the suspect in a phenomenon called Human Flesh Search (人肉搜索 rén ròu sōu suǒ.)
So it is safe to say the opinion of internet users are reflections on the opinions of the vast majority of Chinese people.
And it’s not surprising that Chinese blog contents are often the topic of conversations between young people at parties, parties where people spend a lot of their time engrossed on their mobile blogging accounts rather than each other. The above picture is not an uncommon site.
Young people feel at ease when they chat online, especially when using the same up to date internet language.
Similar to other groups of people, Chinese netizens also have sought for a way to be unique but recognisable, modern but durable.
Internet language is increasingly composed of new words, terms or phrases. To speak of these words is to show you are trendy and up-to-date, so they are popular with university under and post graduates.
Here are some of the influences on China's evolving online lingo:
Just showed up
Whether you believe it or not, I believe it
The Chinese Ministry of Railways spokesman Wáng yǒng píng 王勇平, in a public realtions disaster, said this this at a press conference on 23rd July, 2011 intending to keep the public’s confidence on the actions taken by rescuers after two high-speed trains crashed in Wenzhou resulting in 40 deaths and 192 injuries.
In order to satirize this issue, large numbers of netizens quoted this sentence on their blog status or used it in various humorous or sarcastic contexts.
Below are subtitled video stills from the press conference with Wáng yǒng píng saying the famous phrase “至于你信不信，反正我信了”
T-shirts printed with his phrase “至于你信不信，反正我信了” are sold on Taobao: a quick but innovative response to the often used internet phrase from the commercial market.
范跑跑 Fàn Pǎopǎo
The term stems from a primary school teacher called Fan who bolted from his class during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 instead of helping his pupils. News of this was widely reported and debated online.
As a result, Netizens named him Fàn Pǎopǎo，literately meaning ‘running Fan’ (pictured below) and thereafter the Pǎo pǎo（跑跑）part was used after a person’s name in order to emphasize that person's cowardliness:
Borrowed From Different Dialects:
The word 给力gěilì meaning “awesome”, “cool” or “powerful”
In the last two years this is one of the most widely used words created by Netizens, which are commonly believed to originate from the slang dialect in Fujian province.
However, the term was not so widely spread until a Japanese cartoon “Rìhé 日和” became incredibly popular on social media, including Renren, Sina Weibo and MOP forum then a bit later on even state media.
A video cut from the Japanese cartoon “Rìhé” (日和漫画) with Chinese subtitles.
To the surprise Chinese Netizen’s it first surfaced from the internet in an article in the People’s Daily Newspaper, Rénmín Rìbào (人民日报) seen below; praising Jiangsu for their achievements on building a ‘culturally powerful province.’
Jiāng sū gěilì wénhuà qiángshěng:
“Amazing/fabulous Jiangsu, a culturally strong province.”
An example of 给力 gěilì can be seen blow in this extract from popular blog “ChinaSmack.”
The picture is of a woman in Qingdao beach covering up all to avoid sunburn, attracting ridicule from the online public. Underneath are the translated comments of Chinese netizens.
Gěilì can be seen in the first comment that reads literally “sweating, no ordinary awesome” 汗, 不是一般的给力, in this case sarcastically meaning “especially awesome.”
From different accents:
有木有 yǒu mù yǒu
Recently, a three character phrase, a slant on the common 有没有 yǒu méi yǒu and approximately meaning “Yes or no??” was born of Chinese Netizens.
It is always placed at the end of either a sentence or a paragraph, but always along with exclamation marks.
As well expressing exclamation the phrase also makes fun of a northern dialect in China.
The popularity of “有木有!!!” used to express anger or depression, also brings to life the “roaring” (咆哮体 páo xiào tǐ) nature of blogging and chatting in China.
”有木有!!!” is used here to Páo xiào tǐ by some girls who failed to pass their maths exams, as a way to unleash their anxiety.
Censorship has had possibly the largest influence on changing online language in China.
Swear words, deleted by censors as they are typed into a live blog or social network site, have been changed by Netizens to different characters with similar sounds to disguise them.
For instance the popular phrase cào nǐ mā (showing the characters for this would risk this article) which translates to a harsh phrase in English, (a curse at your maternal parent) was changed in around 2009 to look like “草泥马” (cǎo ní mǎ) in order to avoid the censors.
It sounds almost the same but uses these characters:
Chinese netizens use the new草泥马 cǎo ní mǎ regularly in conversations now. Somehow the last character马mǎ (horse) became associated with the Alpaca, a South American camelid:
Now the animal, largely unknown in China previously, is a theme for stuffed toys and t-shirts sold in markets with the slogan "草泥马” cǎo ní mǎ printed on the front:
Recently, the term cǎo ní mǎ surprisingly emerged on “非诚勿扰” Fei Cheng Wu Rao, one of the most popular TV-dating shows in mainland China from JSTV.
After being asked about the name of his pet Alpaca, (can't remember how many lights turned red from the ladies on that one) a male guest answered directly with 草泥马” Cǎo Ní Mǎ (shown below in the video stills), astonishing the audiences both on and offline as it’s not a particularly polite term.
From this case, especially with stuffed toys for sale displaying the insult we can boldly predict that the internet language will have an increasing influence and power in the society, especially in mass media.
Just showed up:
伤不起 Shāng Bù Qǐ
The term is usually placed alongside “有木有” as a way to express disappointment and to complain about a current situation.
In the above example blog status, a stressed out girl laments about drinking water containers weighing 20kg are too heavy for her to lift.
She finishes by saying “伤不起!!!” A soft complaint suffix, as if to say “This is not happening!”
坑爹 Kēng Diē
The Chinese version of the Japanese cartoon “Rìhé” (日和漫画) also boosted another term’s popularity in 2010:
Currently it means “got trapped or conned”. Netizens started using it to describe those untrustworthy ambitions, circumstances or people.
Below is a still from another chapter of “Rìhé” with “坑爹 kēng diē” in the subtitle.
Below is a screen grab of a blogger using 坑爹 kēng diē to grumble about the point of learning maths.
Spot another phrase mentioned earlier in this article also used by this blogger.
An ancient word from around 476 BC, Zhan Guo Dynasty and has not been used for many centuries but in around 2008 came back onto fashion all round China.
The character's unique face-like features started appearing in social media, forums and instant messaging because it enabled people to express their embarrassment in quite a novel way.
The character originally meant “patterned window” or simply “brightness,” but now rarely means that. Instead it now shares the same meaning as a similar sounding character 窘 jiǒng, meaning “embarrassment” or “depression.”
It is possible to predict that 囧 will be put in the modern dictionary again as it is a real Chinese character.
Its wide use has led to clothing brands adopting the image.
Whereas trendy words in English tend to come and go, in Chinese they linger and grow in popularity as they are embraced.
If the language changes too much then could this lead to intimidated authorities banning internet cafes? See this fascinating field study into the social significance of Chinese internet cafes.
An interesting result of the spread of this internet language is the younger generation of Cantonese and Mandarin speakers joined by a common digital dialect.
As it is fashionable for young Chinese people to show they are up to date on all the latest internet lingo, so the popularity of internet language is not just for every day enjoyment. The different languages and cultures in China care being bridged by this constantly spreading online vocabulary, especially between Mandarin and Cantonese speaking areas.
Nowadays, speaking some Mandarin-originated internet terms or words is very welcome among young Cantonese speakers, something not commonly seen in the past.
Internet lingo pouring out into everyday conversations confirms that societal changes in China are starting from the bottom and that the internet is becoming more and more influential.
Angry Birds is third most pirated brand in China much to the delight of its Finnish maker Peter Vesterbacka.
He aims in fact to become the most copied brand in China, hoping for a 100 million downloads before the year ends and the leading entertainment brand in China next year.
One the promotions in China that have risen out of his ambitions are Angry Bird moon cakes, available in custom male/female bags.
Championed by Maxim’s group, the choice of chocolate, mango and pommel debuted at the Hong Kong food expo on Sunday where they apparently snapped up by fans for HK$38 ($4.90)
The company that created the hugely popular game last year has already released its own Angry Birds soft toys and is aiming to develop a cartoon series based around the sling shot swine hating birds.
China Mobile, now eager to cash in on the smartphone game scene, is offering RMB100,000 ($15,621) to any developer from any country who can create “excellent Android games.” The developer can submit five games of which up to three will be shortlisted and each of those shortlisted games will then be bought.
Right, where's that HTML manual.
Imaginative fingers on the keyboard of a Think Pad Edge
Buick produces a great slow mo add
Honda's Rube Goldberg machine
A person’s mobile phone in China is a reflection of prestige, a mark of stature as it's produced from a pocket or hand bag in buses, trains and elevators. Status can’t necessarily be represented by clothes and accessories which are easily copied. Expensive cars are another way to show it all off but the comfort of plush interiors doesn’t compensate for the inconvenience of nightmarish congestion so the car is often left at home. This leaves the phone. A status symbol carried everywhere, often produced in every super market que, subway train and elevator. There can be a lot of waiting around in China so even more opportunity to get the phone out to pass the time.
Shanzhai phones, the infamous multibillion dollar brand knock offs, have accumulated vast wealth by producing exact aesthetic copies of well know mobile brands, renamed them “Nckia” and “Blockberry” and sold them to China's low end users. They look like the original brand but the simple phones are adapted to appeal to Chinese consumers such as bright, glitzy, accentuated exteriors coupled with actual useful functions like phone lights, key in areas where electricity is temperamental. They were so successful that their business model has been dissected by foreign companies in order to gain knowledge of competing in China, and their phones, sold in the Middle East, ironically could have helped to bring down some Governments during the Arab Spring. But with sales predicted to peak in 2011 this era could be coming to a stand still. Government restrictions are tightening, entry level smart phones are becoming cheaper and China’s middle class are getting wealthier according to research firm IHS iSuppli. Android phones are falling in price and with the imminent arrival of the iPhone 5 to be offered by China Unicom and China Mobile it means that more and more consumers no longer need to make do with reduced functionality.
An example of smart phone dominance can be observed with the current Nokia debacle. Nokia who were dominating the Chinese market with their affordable, double sim card phones, now have an inventory build up of around 5 million handsets piling up in re seller's shops around China. The company's old Symbian operating system is weighing the them down as is their image. Chinese consumers now spend more time posting on Weibos and playing Angry Birds (which has grown past 100 million monthly active users, and it has done so faster than any other technology brand in history according to Rovioone) than sleeping. Entry level smart phones are now cheaper than Nokia’s low end Symbian handsets and have far more to play with. And in case you are a budding app developer, recently China mobile offered 100,000RMB ($15,500) to anyone who produced a mobile phone game that they would release.
In contrast, Nokia phones are now deterring Chinese buyers in a not too different fashion to the prole drift that hurt Burberry in UK in the 1990s, where what was marketed at the upper tier became widely associated with lower tier. A similar context is now prevalent in China with Nokia phones being associated with waiters and bus divers leading more and more Chinese to save up for Apples and Androids even though they cost thirty percent more in China than in US.
Sina will have to pay close attention to features and usability if they are to compete outside of China with their current stance on censorship. Although being the most popular blogging and social networking site in mega populous China who’s to say they haven’t already evolved into something great.
We will soon find out if Sina Weibo is not just popular in China as it opens the Japanese version of its blogging site across the water. Success in Japan could go either way.
On the one side there are more than a few similarities between the two countries. The Japanese palette will welcome the clean and simple interface, the cute theme, the well tested mobile platform, the multimedia diversity and the celebrity usage. Facebook has not done well in Japan leaving a neutral ground for a tussle with Twitter which has had great success there. But on the other hand Chinese search engine Baidu has flunked in Japan.
Success in Japan could happen but then is testing Sina Weibo in social network picky Japan going to be effective in knowing whether it will catch on in the rest of the world? Maybe not but opening an English language version within China will be a good start.
Sina Weibo's English version is rolling out within China in a couple of months with the aim of testing its popularity with the English speakers. But that has not stopped Sina pulling out all the stops. Celebrities such as Emma Watson, Tom Cruise and Radio Head are already signed onto the site, as well as 60,000 verified accounts for celebrities, sports stars and major brands.
Sina is also breaking out its own currency the Weibi. This will be used for monetising the platform with sales of virtual products and services and will also insure app developers cannot make money directly off the platform as they will have to have the Weibi system integrated in to Weibo apps, which will involve screening the app developer for authenticity first.
So it will be interesting to measure the level of success Sina Weibo has in its first steps outside of China.
China’s Baidu has teamed up with Bing and will be using the Microsoft search engine to better Baidu English language search results.
The rivalry between Google and Baidu is on the table with provoking articles like this one in The China Daily mentioning: “The [Baidu] cooperation with Microsoft may …. complicate Google's development in China..”
Baidu is the biggest search engine inside China but Google, even with its cold relationship with the Chinese censors, is still the second most popular search engine in China.
The Bing Baidu team up could be a result of Baidu’s year on year losses trying to branch out of China. The company has lost around RMB 680 million so far trying to gain popularity in Japan. The losses reportedly are mainly from operating expenses, executive expense, stock option compensation expense and so on. But also who wants to use an underdeveloped and censored algorithm outside China?
Possibly for this reason Baidu is looking to increase its users at home by providing better English language results.
According to Zhang Dongchen, Baidu assistant president, “10 million English-language searches are made on Baidu every day, mainly by professionals and university students in China.”
Although Google has made an image benefiting retreat from mainland China over its refusal to give in to censorship demands, other foreign search engines have not followed suit. Microsoft’s search engine Bing has been censoring its results in China in order to gain access to China's 470 million netizens, but has thus far amassed a measly 8% market share in popularity.
Bing wants to branch in and Baidu wants to branch out.
So Microsoft and Baidu have teamed up. The question is, is this is an attempt to oust Google from China completely? Would that really matter for Google?
Probably not. Google already has a reputation now, gold dust, for being a righteous and forthright institute in comparison to Baidu. Something that can only compliment the world’s most popular search engine. Plus Google is already comfortable selling foreign directed display adds to Chinese advertisers who spent billions on them last year, one of the highest such spends in the world, according to Google. The company also continues to employ 500 people in China and says revenue there is growing year over year.
In China it is now possible to pay for items on the street using a smartphone and your Alipay account. The vendor just needs their bar-code reader and the customer just needs the Alipay app. If the vendor has no bar-code reader then their mobile phone camera can be used to read the bar-code generated on the customer’s phone.
Similar to PayPal, Alipay users can dip into funds already deposited in their Alipay account or use any credit card details they may have associated with the account.
The software can be downloaded onto Android, iPhone, Symbian, Java or Blackberry phones and users will have the option of setting passwords for purchases.
The shopper can use the Alipay system with 3G, 2G/GPRS or WiFi, (so that’s everyone) and the phone does not need to be NFC (that wireless connectivity thing where you bump your phones together and it transfers stuff) equipped.
The system is being aimed at smaller sized merchants to begin with so as to see the direction it takes. If all goes well then bring on the bigger stores and possible dedicated Alipay phones.
The UK has something similar edging in but for it to be lucrative all the different UK mobile networks involved would first have to agree on a single m-commerce system and then they would need to gain clearance from European Commission, the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom before launching and then gain public confidence to use it. China on the other hand has just two major mobile networks both of whom have many millions of customers so there’s no need for a joint venture, and not a lot of red tape involved in launching but what about consumer confidence without the safety barriers? Let’s wait and see.
Intel and the characters from Madagascar merge for this funky advert
Siemens show off their vacuum technology refrigerators for freshness.
Alibaba’s humorous parody of throwing shoes at the US president
Water advert uses imaginative fluid movement
A way of weaning China off coal fired electricity to help clean up their cranky air?
Scientists have taken the same kind of electricity used in cigarette lighters and adapted it to power a laptop, all you would need to do is to tap away.
The phenomenon comes from piezoelectric crystal which is capable of producing a high voltage electric current after being hit, something that has been around since the 19th century.
Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran, co-author of the research at Australia’s Melbourne Institute, explained to GizMag that their Microplatforms Research Group successfully studied and recorded enough voltage in thin piezoelectric film for this to be able to work. The film is so thin it can coat the surface of electronic parts and be used in various gadgetry such as laptops, energy generating fabrics, stored in the soles of running shoes to keep mobile batteries charged or could even use your blood pressure to power a pacemaker.
But from the looks of this brand the "Ecopad" seems like the Koreans are already on it.
That would mean everlasting electricity, no bad thing.