DIGITAL MEDIA IN CHINA: CATALYST FOR GLOBALIZATION
by Harold Gellis CPA
Digital media are revolutionizing China. They are having a profound impact on all aspects of society. Digital media are influencing social networking, entertainment, political activism, and business collaboration. They are the catalyst for social, economic, and political change. And they are enabling China to become more integrated into the global community.
China has the world’s largest Internet population with more than 420 million users. And with each passing day, the Internet is becoming more pervasive across all segments of China’s population. A majority use the Internet for communication, information, and socialization. But one application, weibo, is having a particularly dramatic impact on Chinese society.
“Weibo” is the Chinese word for microblogging. It allows users to communicate with each other by instant messaging, posting and commenting on others’s posts. Many of these users have discovered that weibo can dramatically enhance their lifestyles in ways hitherto unimaginable.
The China Daily reports, "microblogs are surging in popularity in China with more than 195 million registered blog users by mid-2011.” This number had been only 63 million at the beginning of 2011. This represents a three-hundred percent increase in six months.
There has been even more dramatic growth in microblog use since mid-2011. In February 2012, China Radio International reported that over 320 million now have microblog accounts. This represents 65 percent of the total number of Chinese Internet users. Over 34 percent of Chinese mobile Internet users also use Weibo/microblogs. These trends indicate exponential growth in microblogging.
Although most users log on purely to chat with friends and share news, others have harnessed the power of microblogs for social or political purposes. For example, microblogging has revealed government corruption and has helped improve working conditions for factory workers and their families.
The prevalence of microblogs in society shows the new-found freedoms of all Chinese people. Microblogs are no longer simply gossip-filled chat rooms. They have become the new communication medium. They facilitate collaborative work within and between organizations. They help improve the social and emotional welfare of the population.
Most importantly, microblogs facilitate the flow of real-time, uncensored local and international news and information across all segments of the population. They have become the main instrument for obtaining the latest local, national and international news. Chinese citizens can now obtain information about world events free of government censorship and effect change.
There are four main microblog services in China. The most widely used microblogging service is Sina weibo. The three other major microblogging services are Sohu, NetEase, and Tencent. All four services now require microblog users in Beijing to provide their real identities to the city’s Internet management office by mid-March in order to be able to post.
Sina Weibo, www.sina.com, features many Chinese celebrities, scholars, government officials, and organizations from both within mainland China as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. It is available on a variety of mobile platforms including Android, Blackberry OS, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. It is available in both simplified and traditional characters and has an English platform as well.
Its English platform features international news, business, lifestyle, entertainment, sports, science and technology, photos, video, city guides, and other features. It offers an unusual service, eChineseLearning, a series of Chinese video courses, to facilitate global communication between English and Chinese speakers.
Among eChineseLearnings video courses are the following: one-on-one Chinese learning; Chinese lessons for job interviews, dating, travel, business etiquette, and culture. There are lessons for teens, kids, adults, schools, and corporations. Offering flexibility and convenience, eChineseLearning has the potential to enable English speakers to share ideas, news, and collaborative activities with their Chinese counterparts.
Tencent, www.tencent.com, is one of China’s largest Internet service portals. Tencent provides Internet, mobile and telecom services, and online advertising under the goal of “one-stop online lifestyle services.” It also provides instant messaging services under its platform, QQ Instant Messenger, to more than 638 million users. Various services including communication, entertainment, information, and e-commerce are provided. Its QQ.com platform provides interactivity, communication, and entertainment for Chinese users around the world. It also has an English platform.
The Baidu portal, www.baidu.com, provides users with Chinese-language query-based services. Its Baidu Encyclopedia is the world’s largest user-generated Chinese-language encyclopedia. It also provides a media platform for online marketing of business services and products for the Internet consumer marketplace.
Government and social entities are also using weibo to disseminate information, provide transparency, and help the population stay connected. Ordinary citizens can share their interests and concerns among hundreds of thousands of users in real time, shape public opinion, and facilitate social and political change.
Many multinational companies are using weibo to increase consumer awareness of their products in China. Nokia, for example, promoted its products by sponsoring an online advertising event which was attended by 400,000 users. Other companies, such as Dell, are also using microblogs to promote their products in Chinese markets.
Government entities have discovered that weibo can enhance citizen confidence in government. The city of Haining’s Director of Justice Bureau’s microblog has 730,000 followers. The Director uses his iPad, iPhone, smartphone, and digital camera to constantly post content on the microblog.
Other government ministries are now beginning to use microblogs as well to communicate online with the public about state affairs and economic issues. For example, more than 171 deputies of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body, have opened microblogs for their constituents. One legislator, Zhu Yongxin, vice president of the Chinese Society of Education, provided continuous postings to his microblog for 600,000 online subscribers.
Other Digital Media
Duowei News, based in the United States, provides mainland Chinese with uncensored news about political events in China that the state-owned media ignores. Examples include stories about government corruption and government crackdowns.
China Radio International (CRI) is China’s leading broadcasting and Internet medium. It broadcasts 290 hours of programs each day all over the world in 43 languages. CRI’s programs include news, current affairs, and features on politics, economy, culture, science and technology.
CRI, however, also has a fascinating and informative website, http://english.cri.cn. On its English homepage, there are sections for international events, news from China, sports, entertainment, and Chinese culture and language. The ‘Biz China’ section is especially noteworthy for providing an archive of news item and developments about Chinese businesses and its financial markets. ‘Biz China’ has a search engine that allows for retrieving articles on a particular topic from its news archive. There are additional sections for finance, information technology, travel, transportation, and energy.
CRI also provides free guidebooks to social, economic, and demographic aspects of China. The material was compiled from the most frequent questions asked by listeners to CRI. Topics included, for example, are: China’s legal and educational system; the Three Gorges Project; and the different minorities in China.
CRI’s latest platform is Reel China, provides international viewers with the latest movie news in China. It also showcases events about the Chinese diaspora to mainland Chinese viewers. A recent video showed the Chinese New Year celebrations in Washington D.C. which was attended by 10,000 visitors.
GoChinese, www.gochinese.net, is a unique Chinese language learning platform. It allows user to select Chinese text and hear the words spoken. The English transliteration of the Chinese words can also be displayed, and the voice file can be saved in MP3 format..
GoChinese also allows user-supplied personal content, English text, to be translated into Chinese characters and saved for future use such as posting to microblogs. This language conversion tool can facilitate globalization in China by providing Chinese Internet users access to English speakers worldwide.
Deloitte, www.deloitte.com, the international accounting firm, has a division, the China Services Group, to facilitate cross-border business activity between the United States and China. The China Services Group advises US companies on how to set up operations in China, as well as advising Chinese companies on how to globalize their operations.
Implications of Digital Media for Globalization in China
The proliferation of digital media and Internet portals coupled with the spread of mobile communication devices have revolutionized life and accelerated globalization trends in China. The explosive growth of microblogging and instant messaging across large segments of the Chinese population have raised public awareness of social, demographic, economic, and political issues. Using services provided by Sina Weibo, Tencent, and other portals, people can react in real-time to events and issues that affect them and other citizens.
Digital media have empowered ordinary citizens to express their interests and concerns to the population at large, free of government control. Digital media’s wide availability and adoption by the masses have accelerated awareness of international events and globalization trends. China’s ordinary citizens are longer confined to government-controlled isolated confinement.
Digital media have also advanced e-commerce and business activities among international businesses and have helped to increase foreign direct investment in China. Using a variety of platforms and media, multinational enterprises can promote their products, services, and most importantly, their ideas, to China’s population.
As Internet use in China continues to grow exponentially, these globalization trends will only continue. Digital media will penetrate more and more segments of China’s population. Digital media will be the catalyst for globalization and will usher in the benefits of globalization to the people of China.
Harold Gellis, CPA, is Professor of Accounting and Information Technology at York College of the City University of New York in the United States, and is a specialist in geopolitical and technological trends. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Added on March 01, 2012