I’ve already mentioned the electronic highway, the internet in China, or should I say the ‘intranet’ of China, in a previous blog. Many western sites are blocked here, so the internet in China feels more like a national intranet. It’s exactly like the country used to be: separated from the rest of the world by a wall. In this case by a big firewall that uses filters and blockades to keep everything out. Basically, anything that’s considered undesirable by the Chinese leaders is blocked.
As a result, we have no access to Google, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter etc. Instead, we’ve got Chinese equivalents. Baidu is the Chinese Google, Youku is the equivalent of YouTube and so on. Initially, there wasn’t too much attention for these Chinese copies in other countries, but that’s currently changing. Because we’ve now got an app that’s so advanced, that for a change, it’s the western countries that are trying to copy China.
The app is called Wechat. I think I’ve referred to it once before and since then, it has further developed and it has become the only app you’ll ever need. It serves as your WhatsApp, your Facebook, Tinder, Uber and so on. It’s even used by hospitals to confirm appointments, you can invest or trade in currencies via Wechat and it allows you to check how busy it is in your favourite shopping centre, so that you can decide whether you want to do your shopping at a different day or time, when it’s less busy. All of this combined in one app!
And all those different pieces of information are linked, so everything and everyone goes viral. You might get a new restaurant recommended, simply because you happened to share a certain message with a friend; the restaurant doesn’t have any menus, no waiters, no cashier, just Wechat. Ordering your food, paying for it and sharing the experience with friends – all through one app.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? There is only one major drawback. By using Wechat for everything you do, you’re allowing them to save an incredible amount of personal data. Good news for advertisers, of course. However, the big companies are obliged to share this information with the Chinese government. Do we really want these large amounts of personal data to end up in the hands of a few people?
General manager Van den Berg RoSes, China