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China Bytes Vol. 1: WeChat, New Trends and Wisdom!

Welcome to the first edition of the China Bytes Series, a biweekly guide including:

1) first-hand experience summary of what's trending in China's technology world; 
2) deep-dive of China's most popular apps/products; 
3) timeless ancient Chinese wisdom you could apply to today.

I'm Camellia, a content creator with a journalism and corporate marketing/comms background.

I'm also the founder of Y Media, a bilingual content service provider, and I have lived and worked in China, New Zealand and the UK which has made me familiar with both Chinese and Western biz/tech cultures.

Sign up here to be notified when a new edition goes live!

To begin with, I'd like to give you a quick overview of China's technology landscape.

Due to China's centralised social system, there are not as many Indie Hackers as there are in the western world. The majority of hackers will join the traditional four biggest tech firms in China: BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi) and other rising powers such as Huawei, DIDI, JD, ByteDance, Meituan Dianping, Hikvision and Pinduoduo.

Chinese people, however, use products and services developed by those companies on a daily basis and tend to stay in their ecosystem because of the convenience and stability.

Most Popular Apps/Products

Let's start with China's super app WeChat.

WeChat (owned by Tencent) started as an instant text and voice messaging tool but now has become the "app of everything", from payment, newsletter, online shopping to social networking, games and "COVID-19 passport".

(Pictures: WeChat Function)

(Pictures: WeChat User Interface)

According to the latest statistics, WeChat has hit more than 1.225 billion monthly active users (MAU) in the last quarter of 2020 (19 million daily active users in the United States), ranking as the fifth most widely used social networking app globally.

Here are a couple of examples of users number on different WeChat functions:

  • 330 million MAU on WeChat Video Chat function for work (largely used by SMEs and project teams, for big enterprises they use VooV Meeting)and personal purpose

  • More than 20 million WeChat Official Subscription Accounts (newsletter content type, top 10 accounts in 2020are state-owned media account, COVID-19 related account and finance/book review accounts) with average users subscribed between 10 and 20 accounts.

  • More than 3.8 million WeChat mini-program ("sub-applications" within the WeChat ecosystem) with 830 million MAU.

Last month, Tencent (WeChat mother company) published its FY2020 report with total revenue of $73,881 million, an increase of 28% over the previous year. Tencent is now valued at about $780.9 billion with numerous non-Chinese institutional investors behind its back.

What's In It For IndieHackers?

If you are a content creator:

Watch out for the WeChat Subscription account, which provides content creators with powerful functions such as peers recommendation, search, data analysis, CRM, paid content and e-commerce.

If you are a developer/programmer:

Watch out for the WeChat mini-program, which provides advanced features to users such as e-commerce, task management, gaming, videos, coupons within the WeChat ecosystem. According to the recent White Paper (in Chinese), WeChat mini-programs are expected to generate $689.9 billion in transactions by the end of 2021. For most of the products that you could find on Product Hunt, there is an equivalent WeChat mini-program available (WeChat provide a series of tools to help developers quickly access and complete the Mini Program development).

(WeChat Mini-Program)

Three New Trends/Products

  • The e-signature industry has rapidly developed in the China market. According to Eguan's report, the Chinese e-signature market was valued at ~$3.02 billion in 2019 and exceeded $6 billion in 2020. The State Government published a series of policies to promote the changing behaviours from stamp to electronic seal and signature, signalling the vast scope of this digitalisation mission all over China (here is a guide of how to run business in china as a foreign entity).

  • Electric vehicles and electric bicycles have boomed in Shanghai, China, together with sharing mobile charging equipment along the street. One in three residents in Shanghai has an electric car or electric bicycles (most popular EV brands including Tesla, BYD, Aion, BMW, Li Xiang One and SAIC Volkswagen;most popular EB brands including Niu, Yadea and AIMA). The delivery drivers also heavily rely on electric bikes and need to charge multiple times a day. The new sharing charging devices supported by the local authorities will help solve people's problems in an environmentally friendly way (42.2% public charging devices vs 57.8% private charging devices).

  • Product of the week: A wireless ultra-range smart projector JMGO O1 launching to the market at the end of this month (check out the previous model). The pandemic accelerated the home cinema industry in China (sales on JD, the second-largest e-commerce site in China, surged 213% in 2020 compared with the previous year)), and the prediction of this market's growth is at 16% per year.

Chinese Wisdom

In Chinese philosophy, the phrase Three Teachings refers to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism when considered a harmonious aggregate.

The Vinegar Tasters is a traditional Chinese painting subject, featuring the three founders of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

Image

The three men are Confucius, Buddha, and Laozi.

Each man's expression represents the predominant attitude of his religion:

  • Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people;

  • Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering because of society's obsession with the pursuit of personal satisfaction and subsequent suffering;

  • Taoism saw life as sweet because every natural thing is intrinsically good as long as it remains true to its nature.

AMA

Question from the IH community:

"I would like to read about tech trends/products that are common in China and used on an everyday basis but are not present in western countries and some analysis of why that is. For example, I've read that in China, you don't need to carry cash because you can pay for everything via an app instantly, even with small sellers on the street. This is not that common in the west - I guess because of stricter banking regulations??"

Answer:

China was the first country to invent paper currency during the 7th century in the Tang dynasty but was also one of the first few countries to enter the cashless society.

There are two reasons: 1) China does not have a credit card culture and jumped directly from cash payments to mobile payments; 2) the rapid growth of the smartphone industry and third-party payment solutions, such as WeChat Pay and AliPay.

WeChat Pay and AliPay have been widely accepted in the China market. People just need to scan QR codes with smartphones or generate QR codes on smartphones for merchants to scan to finish the transaction.

Unlike credit card systems requiring credit assessment, mobile payments are open to almost everyone, even in Chinese rural areas which provide financial services solution for the large population of farmers in the underdeveloped regions.

The newly developed facial recognition payment solution is expected to exceed 760 million users by next year.


That's all for this edition! Want to be notified when the next edition of China Bytes is live? Sign up here or connect with me on Indie Hackers and submit your questions!

  1. 1

    Very informative post, I subscribed to the newsletter.

    I had a question about actually getting involved as an Indie Hacker in the China tech scene. I have heard that in order for foreigners to publish WeChat mini-programs they need an ICP license, much like when starting a SaaS or any online business there. Is there a resource for helping foreign developers enter and navigate the Chinese market?
    Thank you.

    1. 2

      WeChat developer documentation may be able to help you. mihttps://developers.weixin.qq.com/miniprogram/en/dev/framework/ability/network.html

    2. 2

      Hey! Thanks for your comment! I'll do some researches and contact my friends in Tencent to see the solutions. I will get back to you later :)

    3. 1

      Check out www.21cloudbox.com, it gives you an edge to deploy websites in China

      1. 1

        Thank you, this looks great.

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