Monthly Archives: October 2011

The second death of the bicycle?

From the technological innovation imported in the 1890s to the must-have-for-a-wedding during the 1960s and 1970s (together with a sewing machine and a wristwatch), bicycles are much more than a means of transportation: they offer a glimpse into the evolution of the Chinese society.

The bell was tolling for the bicycle when, in 2010, China took over from the US the ‘enviable’ position of largest car market of the world. By then, some bicycle-only streets in Chinese cities had been turned into car-only streets. A little flicker of hope was provided by the massive adoption of electric bicycles (according to the New York Times, there are around 120 million of them in China). Would the eco-conscious government and citizens refrain from turning into a car society? Alas, the artifact’s original sin (its ‘noiselessness’) might be the cause of its second death: Shenzhen banned electric bicycles from the downtown area to reduce the number of accidents.

I wonder if electric cars will be banned for the same reason…

Innovation cities

Hong Kong (15), Shanghai (24), Beijing (53), Shenzhen (93) and Taipei (100)…. Greater China counts 5 cities in the top 100 innovation cities index.

How is the ranking determined? It seems that a number of indicators (across 31 industry and community segments) are weighted and summed into 3 factors: cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets.

Interestingly enough, the ‘innovation city’ ranking does not correlate very well with the ‘science city‘ ranking. This may of course be explained by the different methodologies and metrics used for both rankings. It may also indicate that turning science into innovation requires a particular set of skills. No surprise then that Hong Kong (way behind in science citations) comes well ahead in the innovation index. Shenzhen, not particularly known for its universities, can of course count on the innovation dynamism of Huawei and ZTE.

The end of telecom monopolies?

The information has yet to be officially confirmed but it appears that China Telecom may be under anti-monopoly investigation.

Its sin(s)? Abuse of dominance in the broadband market or more specifically charging other broadband service operators discriminatory network access fees. For those not versed in competition law jargon it means that the company is taking advantage of its position in the market to squeeze out competitors (usually by forcing them to resell services to the final customer under the cost of production).

The anti-monopoly law is one of the latest weapon in the arsenal of those trying to instill fair competition in the Chinese telecommunication market. The real question is why China Telecom’s counterpart (China Unicom) does not incur a similar investigation, given that both companies have nicely divided the country in two – the South for China Telecom and the North for China Unicom?

Petitions 2.0

The Chinese government is working hard to improve its e-government services, or so it looks.

After the launch of the Zhongnanhai website, where netizens could chat with their leaders, four cities in Guangdong have created an online system to submit petitions – one of the oldest form of communication between the citizens and the government. According to the Financial Times, the service will even include webcasts.

Some cynics may argue that it is probably those keen on petitioning – the disenfranchised – often don’t have access to the Internet and for those who do, well, there is always the risk of mails being lost in cyberspace.