Monthly Archives: February 2009

Credit goes on

For those who thought that the global financial crisis was going to put a dent into credit lending, think again!

Chinese equipment manufacturer ZTE is partnering with Chinese financial organizations to provide loans in the range of USD 15 billion. The idea is to ensure that operators in developing and developed countries do not cut too drastically on their equipment purchase.

So, after funding the American consumer through the purchase of treasury bonds, China is now moving to sustaining companies. Adding to the already lower-priced products, Chinese firms may further develop their competitive advantage: ZTE just announced its first major Western contract – upgrading the network of Tesltra’s subsidiary in Hong Kong. For sure, the crisis is not lost on everyone.

China’s Censorship 2.0

How do Chinese Internet companies censor user-generated content? In a recent report (China’s Censorship 2.0: How companies censor bloggers), Rebecca McKinnnon shows that Chinese censorship is far from uniform. The researchers looked at 15 blog service providers (BSP) and showed that:

  1. Censorship levels across the BSPS varied drastically; the most vigilant company censored “only” 56% of the blog posts
  2. A large part of senstive political comments manage to survive in the Chinese blogosphere
  3. Censorship methods vary greatly from company vary greatly (most of them use primarily one method), which means that BSP have a certain room to manoeuver

The reports hints at a number of reasons for these variations in censorship practices:

- Companies are registered in different locations and surveillance may vary accordingly
- Some companies are more succesful than others and hence may come under more intense scrutiny
- Shareholders and investors may play a role via their political relationships
- BSP editors may, due to their educational and professional background, understand their role in different manners

While the myth of the Great Firewall and Internet police hiding behind each and every Chinese Netizen remains alive, the report – while limited in scope and extent – offers a welcome qualification of blog censorship in China.

100 billion+

The combined revenue from China telecommunication operators passed the USD 100 billion bar in 2008, representing a year-on-year growth of 7%. Revenue from mobile services increased 15.1% (to USD 65 billion) while fixed local and long-distance dropped by 8.5% and 15.8% respectively.

Now that China Telecom acquired a mobile licence, one can expect the switch-or-leapfrog to mobile to happen even faster!

The end of low-tech

Low-tech has its cost of opportunity. China plans to discontinue PHS, a cheap and low-end wireless phone service that counted up to 100 million users, by 2011. Why? To clear spectrum for TD-SCDMA, a homegrown 3G standard.

While this decision may cause inconvenience to low-income customers, the move won’t anger too much the operators who were offering the service as they were just granted a 3G license. In a sense, it is a shame: PHS was able to attract the lower-end of the market thanks to its cheaper fees and despite severe roaming limitations. But remember that most farmers in the country do not roam very much, even in their entire lifetime. But then, what wouldn’t one country do to show it technological capacities…

On China's censorship and pornography

Censorship in China is alive and kicking but it may not always get it priorities straight.

Take for example the recent inauguration speech. A brief mention of communism by Obama was immediately sanctionned by a “mute” by CCTV – the channel broadcasting the event live.  By the same token foreign media sites (e.g., the New York Times or BBC) are routinely blocked for reasons that are not always clear.

It is therefore a surprise that the government seems intent to tackling the rise of online pornography in China only now. At the beginning of January, a number of government agencies banded together to “purify the Internet’s cultural environement and protect the healthy development of minors”. 19 search engine companies (among which Google and Baidu) were singled out for not doing enough in restricting search results. Toudou – China’s Youtube – was shut down for a full day as a warning. China’s anti-pornography drive will also include videos distributed via mobile electronic devices as well as cell phone shops that provide game, music and video downloads.

Don’t they say it is all about politics and sex?

High-tech misery

A new report by the National Labor Committee depicts the harsh conditions of Chinese workers who assemble the machines we are working from… that is if you are using keyboards and other peripherals from HP, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft or IBM.

The study was conducted in a factory – Meitai Plastics & Electronics – located in the South of China and employing 2000 workers. The statistics are rather appalling: workers sit on hard woodenstools twelve hours a day, seven days a week as 500 computer keyboards an hour move down the assembly line or one every 7.2 seconds. They are allowed 1.1 seconds to snap each key into place, repeating the same operation 3,250 times an hour, 35,750 times a day, 250,250 times a week and over one million times a month….

A number of NGOs across the world have been shedding light on this issue for the past few years. Isn’t it time for us consumers to ask for corporate social responsiblity to be globalized?