Monthly Archives: June 2009

Technology and trade wars

There are several ways countries try to wins technology wars. The usual ones include putting resources behind companies or research institutes to help developing a domestic standard with the hope to increase one’s competitiveness and capture market shares – usually known as the “National Champion” strategy.

Then there is the “National Looser” strategy or when a country tries to protect a hopelessly un-competitive market from foreign firms by restricting access – a strategy recently used by the Indian government to  prevent Chinese companies to bid for the loss-making Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) over security concerns raised by intelligence agencies.

While both countries are members of the WTO (and therefore technically bound to promote free trade), this shouldn’t come as a surprise to the Chinese government who has for [too] long been protecting its telecommunication services market from foreign operators on grounds of sovereignty and national security!

[Chinese] Electric cars

With the massive restructuring of the US car industry and green new deals flourishing all across the world, it is no surprise that electric cars are (once again) are the forefront.

For many years, Europe, the US and Japan have competed (and by-and-large failed) to come up with cost-effective electric cars. Now, China is joining the battle, but from the side. The country is investing massively (USD 1 billion) to become a major supplier of lithium-ion batteries with the final aim to lead the world in electric vehicles – this explains closer collaboration with Boliva which is said to hold 10% of world lithium reserves.

Volkswagen, who has been manufacturing cars in China for more than two decades, is now collaborating with BYD to develop electric cars. A number of other partnerships are in-the-making, involving ventures between European, Japanese and Chinese firms.

Let’s see if China’s auto industry manages to leapfrog the combustion engine!

The Ministry of Education is watching you!

For students all across the world, June and July rime with exam time and China doesn’t depart from the rule. This year the government is putting technology to use for making sure the exams take place in all legality…

Video cameras will be installed in almost 60,000 test centers to prevent students cheating in the national college entrance examination – 10.2 million students compete in the exam to access university. The Ministry of Education’s will monitor the videos and keep all footage for future investigation in the event of any cheating allegations.

Video monitoring is just an additional tool. Test centers already deploy radio-monitoring cars outside examination centers to prevent high-tech companies from offering answers through wireless communication equipments to students!

Client Internet Censorhsip (CIC)

Internet censorship may reach new levels in China! According to the Wall Street Journal the government plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 2009 be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites. The usual argument is put forard: protecting young people from “harmful” content.

It seems that for now some uncertainty remains as whether the software has to be pre-installed or whether it can be shipped by CD afterwards – making enforcement of the plan rather difficult since tracking sales of PCs isn’t that easy.

The software is called “Green Dam Youth Escort” – green means free of pornography and other illegal content.

100% broadband connectivity

It was not so long ago the Chinese government’s five year plans were aiming at achieving 95% of telephone connectivity in all villages - the term is in fact divided in “natural” and “administrative” villages and only the latter which are bureaucratic entities are included in the statistics.

One province has leapfrogged these perennial developments plans. Jiangsu – China’s second biggest province in terms of GDP – has become the first province to provide broadband Internet service for all its 150,548 villages. This 100% broadband connectivity was achieved thanks to massive investments by China Telecom.

While impressive the achievement relfects largely the shift of Chinese netizens to broadband: according to China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the number of broadband users has increased by 100 million between 2007 and 2008. This shouldn’t make us forget that the digital gap is still growing with the more remote provinces.

P.S.: CNNIC’s definition of a Netizen is “any Chinese citizen aged 6 and above who have used the Internet in the past half a year”