Have been in Shanghai for three days and have been fortunate enough to meet a number of Chinese and expat bloggers and some tech/social media entrepreneurs.
Some common themes of the conversations:
- China is booming, but Shanghai and Beijing are far more Westernized and have better infrastructure than much of the rest of the country.
- Although business is opening up, the amount of government regulation, red tape, and paperwork is staggering.
- There is a generation of young Chinese entrepreneurs that is being nutured, but the mindset of many Chinese is to copy or adapt what they have seen in the West, localized for this (huge) market.
- One of the big issues in making money off the web, especially with premium content or subscription services, is that many Chinese do not have, or are reluctant to use, credit cards. More than one person I met described dreaming of a phone-card type credit card that could be used for online purchases.
- Repression is a real issue; there are still topics and political statements that will cause the government to crack down on web sites and blogs. People have been arrested and jailed. Everyone is sensitive to not only what can be said, but how to say it (or not say it).
- In China, as everywhere, relationships matter. Everyone is looking for resources, advice, mentors, information exchange. There is great friendliness and chances to talk–people have been very generous with their time and ideas. (*See related posts on censorship and self-censorship in China from Just a Danwei and Imagethief.)
- There’s an interest both in learning from the West and sending information out to the West, but also a tangible caution that Westerners understand China is a unique place (isn’t everywhere?–Seriously, this philosophy may be directly linked to the 25,000 expats said to be streaming into Shanghai every month).
- There are said to be 1 million Chinese bloggers, but there is still a need to evangelize blogging to a wider group–and to create and broadcast original Chinese voices. One way to address this is for some of the Western companies to work with Chinese to localize their services. At the same time, many Chinese will have more control over their sites–and perhaps more accessibility to Chinese on the Mainland–if they use foreign sites as their providers and publishing platforms.