Internet use in China has been on the rise for a long time, but in the past few years we witnessed an extremely significant jump in Internet penetration rate. By June 2016, there were 710 million Internet users in China and Internet penetration was at 51.7%. This is a leap from 39.9% in June 2012. (CNNIC, 38th Statistical Report)
As a result, the e-commerce sector in China is booming. Alibaba(B2B), T-Mall(B2C) and Taobao(C2C), all part of the Alibaba Group founded by Jack Ma in 1999, takes center stage and individually they dominate the markets of each of their platforms. (Statista, 2016) Alibaba Group’s main rival, Tencent, which founded WeChat, an instant messaging and social media platform, is also put in the spotlight as its expanded functions make it an all-in-one mobile application that many now heavily depend on. Online services are also on the rise, among which online meal ordering and online transportation services have proven to be particularly successful.
National Internet penetration rate may have increased steadily, but does each individual province in China benefit from the increased Internet use to the same extent? Also, what are the social implications that come together with the rise of Internet use, particularly in the context of China? These are some questions we will seek to explore.
China Internet Network Information Center (July 2016) Statistical Report on Internet Development in China (38th report), Retrieved from https://cnnic.com.cn/IDR/ReportDownloads/201611/P020161114573409551742.pdf
Statista (2016) Alibaba Group, Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/study_id23850_alibaba-group-statista-dossier.pdf
Over the past week, we were introduced to several text analysis tools and it was interesting to learn that there are so many ways we can look at a text. Even the concept of close and distant reading is new to me, and it showed me the value of both being aware of the big picture and also delving into some of the details. We also spent some time working on our individual project charters, and below is a summary of mine:
Internet use in China over the past few years has increased tremendously and its growth shows no sign of slowing down. In just the first 6 months of the year 2016, there had been an increase of 21.32 million Internet users in the country, and Internet penetration continues to climb at a steady rate. As a result, the areas in which business opportunities lie have drastically changed and people are becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet in their everyday lives. My project will explore the social and economic impacts of China’s internet wave on different regions in the country by mapping out the significant milestones between the year 2005 (when Internet usage in China really took off) and 2016 (using the latest data I could find). After analyzing the data of Internet development in China, I will then focus on case studies in the areas of online shopping, meal-ordering, car transportation services and also instant messaging. There are several case studies I am hoping to look further into, including Alibaba(阿里巴巴), Taobao(淘宝), WeChat(微信) and Dianping (大众点评). If possible, I hope to create interactive timelines for the each of these companies, illustrating their growth over the past decade or so and incorporate these timelines into StoryMap. I also hope to ultimately formulate a clear picture of where in the country are the effects of these advancements most felt and whether the urban-rural gap in China is widening.
There are several available reports on the Internet development in China, with one of the most comprehensive being the statistical report created by CNNIC which was last published in July 2016. One of the most recent reports is Acquisdata’s report on China Information Technology published on 31 May 2017. These reports provide very useful statistics and numbers with regards to my research questions. However, they only very briefly touch upon the specific developments that the big players in the market are making and hardly provide in-depth qualitative analyses of the trends mentioned. On the other hand, there are also many books and articles written about specific companies – their stories and their progress, without putting them in the context of the other developments that have been introduced to the country. I hope to be able to combine both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the topic while at the same time looking at the bigger picture and mapping out where the important changes are taking place and further exploring the implications of my findings.
I am excited to be spending more time looking at individual case studies of the individual companies next week and perhaps (hopefully) stumbling upon new questions related to my project I have never thought about!
Week 1 of the Digital Scholarship and Summer Research Fellows program has opened my eyes to the vast amount of information and tools out there available to us and once again reminded me of how much I don’t know. Besides gaining a better understanding of what Digital Scholarship is, this week has also helped me to narrow my research topic down to the increase in internet use in China.
When many of us think about internet use and access in China, the first thought that pops up is likely to be the restrictions that the Chinese government places on internet use and the inaccessibility of information that is deemed to be too sensitive for publishing. This impression of internet accessibility in China is not without reason, for China continues to block search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, what is less evident to people living outside of China is how the internet has drastically changed the country – business opportunities have swarmed towards e-commerce and online services, and people are becoming increasingly reliant on mobile phone apps like WeChat in their everyday lives.
On my last trip to Beijing recently, it was hard not to notice the rows of bright yellow bicycles lining roads everywhere. I then found out that these bicycles belong to a start-up company called ofo that created a bike-sharing system where people can simply go to their online app store and scan a QR code to unlock the bike at a minimal fee (charged by distance traveled). It has been an extremely successful project, and the company now owns over 3 million bikes across the country. This initiative could potentially drastically improve traffic conditions in the city in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner. Innovations like this one are constantly being introduced to people in the country, especially those living in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
I am intrigued by the extraordinary changes that have taken place in China over past decades and especially that past few years that were brought about by increased internet use. Hence, my project will focus on the economic and social impacts of China’s internet wave on different regions in the country. I hope that through this project, I will be able to better understand and map out the significant changes that have taken place over time. By first analyzing the differences in the speed of increase in Internet use in different cities or provinces, I will then examine the possible implications of these variations.
The presentation of this information is of course also extremely important. This past week, I have had the chance to experiment with various digital tools that could be useful in the presentation of my findings and explore possible ways in which I can take my project. Storymap and Timeline JS especially stands out to me and perhaps will allow me to display the information I have in a clear and concise manner. In the weeks to come, I am excited to learn more about the digital tools out there available to us and also look further into my research topic to come up with new ideas and directions in which I can take my project.