Monthly Archives: January 2009

Save the Endangered Chinese Internet

A Master student from Rutgers University (Dave Lyons) is planning a digital library of significant and endangered Chinese Internet content. The idea is that future generations of researchers interested in studying contemporary China will need access material that only existed digitally (e.g. when studying events such as the Xiamen PX incident, human flesh search engines, the ant farmers scandal, etc.).

Another interesting part of the project would actually be to save, one way or another, content published and then censored (e.g. in chat rooms). The project raises some interesting questions: what are critical webpages or what criteria should be used for inclusion in such a collection.

The irony of intellectual property

A  Chinese court sentenced Samsung to pay more than 7 USD million in fines for … patent infringement. A court in Hangzhou ordered the Korean manufacturer to compensate Holley Communications because Samsung’s dual-mode mobile phone, which operates both CDMA and GSM networks, violates a patent held by the Chinese firm.

The lawsuit is the biggest case in China’s telecommunication history. It is also quite new to have Chinese firms suing competitors for patent infringement, something they were often themselves accused of. Moreover it is surprising that it comes from a virtually unknown player in the telecommunication market. One may have expected such a claim from Huawei or ZTE since they have invested massively into R&D over the last decade and now rank among the world’s top telecommunication equipment manufacturers.

And the most valuable mobile brand is….

China Mobile. The world’s largest mobile operator was named the most valuable telecom brand (worth more than USD 30 billion) by Intangible Business. It leads the ranking in front of Vodafone and Verizon.

But at the global level China Mobile is nowhere to see yet. The Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft or GEs of this world are still way ahead – they also got quite a headstart… But more worrying for the expansion strategies is that the perception of Chinese brands remains neutral at best: only 6% of respondents to Interbrands’ survey on Chinese brands like to buy Chinese products and brands.

It won’t be an easy task for Chinese firms to alter the two strongest perceptions (low quality reputation and no competitive advantage beyond price) against their brands but then remember Japanese companies in the 1970s…

Human Flesh Search Engine

China is experimenting with a new Internet “tool”: the Human Flesh Search Engine (HFSE) is a “search engine” run by human power where thousands of volunteer cybervigilantes unite to expose the personal details of perceived wrongdoers and publish them online.

Some Chinese netizens have already experienced the transition from anonymous Internet user to national hate figure: the “Kitten Killer of Hangzhou” (aka Wang Jue) uploaded a video of herself crushing a small cat to death under her high heels. She was identified by Chinese netizens who recognized the backdrop to the video and traced the shoes back to a purchase made on eBay.

The Chinese courts are now involved as well: an advertising executive (Wang Fei) who fell victim to HFSE after his wife’s suicide is suing two leading Internet portals that hosted the hunt for his identity as well as an individual for defamation and violating his privacy. In December a Beijing court ruled that Wang Fei’s reputation had been damaged both by the person who posted diary excerpts online and by the internet company that hosted the comments.

The phenomena is even reaching government spheres:  China’s transport ministry fired an official for manhandling an 11-year-old girl at a local restaurant, after Internet users posted images and his personal details online.

Here comes 4G…

While the 3G licences have finally been announced by the State Council, attention is already turning to the next generation of mobile telephony. China Mobile has publicly announced a development strategy for 4G TD-LTE networks – 60% of its capital investment will be put into 4G over the next few years.

So is the operator “blessed” with the locally-developed 3G standard (TD-SCDMA) trying to leapfrog technology? Not quite. While TD-SCDMA keeps receiving wide criticism the sandards for LTE still have to be finalized. China Mobile will also have to defend its current market share (more than 60%) against a poweful newcome (China Telecom). That said it is always useful to start occupying the landscape with early announcement sending competition into strategic discussions. The company may also be trying to put pressure on the manufacturers to get lower costs.

P.S.: On a recent tour of the China Mobile headquarter in Beijing, I noticed that the LTE corner was already set up but the guide was unable to answer any question related to LTE…