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Tech's the new soft power

By  : INDICS Operator Updated  :   2019-02-26 14:06:56

Source: China Daily

The consumption power of more than 1 million foreigners working or studying in China is disproportionately bigger than their tiny share (0.07 percent) of the total population - and whizzes of the country's homegrown tech ecosystem are sitting up and taking notice, as the economy transitions from export and investment-led growth to a consumption-driven model.



Manufacturers of gadgets, providers of technology-enabled services, and developers of intellectual property like innovative technologies are all vying to make life easier for the relatively small but monetarily significant foreigner community in China.

French engineer Sebastien Bernard, 37, will probably agree. He came to work and live in Beijing four months ago. The first thing he was asked to do by his friends and colleagues was to download and install WeChat, the all-in-one killer app, on his smartphone.

He complied, and his life is much the better for it, he said. As it transpired, Bernard was e-invited to join a WeChat group.

Initially, 15 foreigners chatted with each other and shared their life experiences on the e-group. Gradually, the group grew to a 200-member community of sorts that shared not just useful information like job links or party invitations but, wait for it, e-commerce discount coupons and weekend getaway packages.

Friendly advice sensitized Bernard to other treasures on WeChat. Among many other things, he learned to use the app to order food, book a taxi ride, buy movie tickets, and make digital payments for e-commerce.

Using Chinese apps, some of his friends even play online games, and borrow or lend money using e-credit channels that are redefining inclusive finance.

According to a WeChat report, by May 2017, foreigners in China sent 60 percent more WeChat messages than Chinese users on average per month. They also use WeChat audio calls 42 percent more than Chinese users.

Notably, foreigners in China are good at using different functions or features of WeChat. On average, they use emojis 45 percent more than Chinese users per day. Typically, a foreigner sends 10"red packets" - cash e-gifts - per month. Nearly 65 percent of foreigners who use WeChat use the app's digital payment tool WeChat Pay.

"Here in China, having WeChat and Alipay accounts is like being plugged into the world. The apps include almost every conceivable service that can help make modern life easy," said Bernard.

Agreed Yang Qiguang, 26, a researcher from Columbia University's Tow Center who is pursuing PhD at the Renmin University of China in Beijing. "Chinese companies are creating a tech ecosystem that helps everyone, including foreigners, to work and live in a more convenient way."

Forming social networks using e-tools has become integral to modern life, particularly in urban areas - and China's tech ecosystem perhaps performs this function better than any other, by bundling consumption-related conveniences, he said.


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