Monthly Roundup - May 2021

Featuring updates on China's crypto crackdown, shifts in China's demographics and tech culture.

Benedict Altier
Benedict Altier

Each month we bring you updates and commentary on Chinese tech and the Chinese digital economy from around the web. Subscribe to stay updated with the latest each month alongside all our other content.

This month China's latest crackdown on cryptocurrencies was blamed for a 30% crash in the price of Bitcoin. The Central Government has long condemned digital currencies, emphasising that the state must maintain control over the monetary supply. Its latest signalling does not deviate wildly from this long-standing position, so it remains unclear why it should have triggered such a significant fall in value. One explanation could be that investors had hoped that the government's stance might liberalise in response to increased institutional acceptance of digital currencies internationally. The move has been followed by a new drive to report cryptocurrency miners, such as through specialised reporting platforms in provinces including Inner Mongolia

At the same time, the Central Government continues to press on with its plans to create its centrally-controlled Digital Renminbi with further lotteries to distribute the coin to citizens in Changsha as part of a campaign to trial the currency in cities across the country.

Brookings explored how patterns in the growth of China's middle-class might help to provide insights into country's future development. It cautions that a conventional Western understanding of how a growing middle-class might shape China politically and economically fails to grasp their true desires and aspirations. At present, rather than calling for the introduction of Western-style democratic institutions, they instead appear to favour the status quo.

The New York Times also discussed shifts in China's demography to understand future urbanisation and education trends that could help drive China's digital economy transition. These trends include the upskilling of China's workforce ,which has seen a 73% increase in the number of people with university-level education between 2010 and 2020.

Leading podcast app Ximalaya has filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange to support its growth in capturing China's sizeable market for audio content. The company already boasts more than 250 million average monthly users and was valued at $3.71 billion in 2018.

China Internet Watch noted Tencent's attempts to replicate e-commerce giant Pinduoduo with the release of an independent mobile app for its mini-program Xiao’E Pinpin. The app looks to be heavily influenced by Pinduoduo's design, layout and functionality and is built around its 'Social Commerce' business model combining friend's' likes and recommendations with online shopping. Despite increased scrutiny towards China's tech giants since late 2020, Tencent reported a 25% growth in year-on-year revenues for the first quarter of 2021, totalling $21 billion (RMB153bn).

As part of the central government's focus on technology regulation, regulators also continued to scrutinise the edtech sector. Tencent-backed Yuanfudao and Alibaba-backed Zuoyebang were each hit with $389,000 in penalties related to unfair competitive practices.

Technode published a post demystifying what it is like to work for Chinese tech firms and the many cultural quirks unique to Chinese startup life, from nicknames to a new Chinese entrepreneurial dream.

Finally, Quartz published a series earlier this month exploring the opinions of UK-based 'China Watchers'. It features profiles of a broad spectrum of academics, politicians and journalists and their views on the risks and opportunities of the United Kingdom engaging with China.

Check back next month for a roundup of the latest developments in Chinese technology and the digital economy, or read other articles and research.

digital currencycurrencytencentregulationedtechtech culture

Benedict Altier

Benedict Altier studied Chinese at University of Oxford and now researches and writes about the Chinese digital economy.