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The Technologies that will help China recover from COVID-19

This article is a follow-up to “The Chinese Tech behind the War on Coronavirus”. China is now moving into the second phase and using technology to bring about a new normality.

In many locations, temperature checks restaurants or supermarkets and mask-wearing is still mandatory. An air of cautiousness has settled throughout the country. Nevertheless, the great Chinese economic machine is slowly shifting gears to support its economic and social recovery.

David Chang — “Normalcy under high Surveillance”

Remote-working Technologies

In early March, Zoom surged nearly 22% to $159.07 per share, a new intra-day high for the video conferencing company. Since January 31, Zoom stock has gained 101% while the S&P 500 has lost nearly 30%. This reflects the demand for video conferencing technologies as a direct response to businesses’ commitments and compliance to social isolation.

Remote working also skyrocketed in China. Around 200 million people were working at home by the end of the Chinese New Year holiday. Many companies in China adopted local productivity technologies, such as, WeChat Work and Alibaba’s Dingtalk to: communicate externally & internally, hosting meetings, training and lectures. DingTalk Monthly active users jumped by 66 percent to more than 125 million. Trip.com, commonly known as Ctrip in China is the country’s largest online travel agency, has long enabled its contact-center staff to work from home. This paid dividends for the agency who was able to maintain a high service-quality during widespread travel disruptions.

Due to the high demand of remote working technologies the 3 leading domestic software enterprise players: Alibaba Dingtalk, Bytedance Lark, and WeChat Work experienced substantial growth between January-Feburary 2020 in downloads, though their user base vary massively:

DingTalk: 1,446%

Lark: 6,085%

WeChat Work: 572%.

What is DingTalk?

Entertainment Technologies

Domestic lock-down promised a surge of online entertainment. The short-video industry registered 569 million daily active users after the Chinese New Year holidays, regularly exceeding 492 million users, as reported by QuestMobile (Beijing located big data intelligence company).

The movie industry also benefitted despite the lack of box office revenues. “Enter the Fat Dragon,” an action comedy film directed by Kenji Tanigaki, debuted on Tencent Video and iQiyi released 2 weeks before premiering on Feb 14th. Another comedy, “Lost in Russia” was set to hit theatres on the first day of the Lunar New Year (Jan 25th), but opted to launch on ByteDance-owned platforms Xigua VideoDouyin and Jinri Toutiao the same day. With the foresight of offering it for free to viewers, as of Jan 27th more than 600 million Chinese have watched the film. The video streaming business is carrying Cinema.

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Online video company owned by Baidu (China’s domestic equivalent of Google)

Delivery Technologies

The initial Wuhan lock-down triggered panic-buying and the emptying of shelves. Yet in a matter of days, the supply chains worked on overdrive and supplies started to flow double-time into Wuhan. Residents have come to terms with the new reality and used digital technology to communicate and collaborate with suppliers.

Digitally-enabled delivery systems present in major Chinese population centres have enabled product delivery to homes in as little as 20 minutes — button-clicked to doorbell-rung. Alibaba’s Cainiao network supports the supply chains of the merchants it serves through an AI-enabled digital inventory system. Cainiao links the offline and online shopping worlds, in which the physical location of the merchant stores serve as an extended distribution network. When the lockdown went en-force, Alibaba immediately facilitated shipping essential medical & food supplies into Wuhan.

Chinese consumer are comfortable with the virtual/online world. Since SARS 2003 Chinese consumers have gotten used to preferring online shopping. With the development of Meituan-DianpingJD.com and Alibaba, consumer behaviour shifted from traditional ‘brick & mortar’ shopping to 100% online- “contactless” shopping.

These two particularities of the Chinese lifestyle enable residents in gated community to organise home-delivery of essential supplies to those in self-quarantine. In my father’s gated-community in Hefei, residents have organised groups of volunteers via WeChat apps to receive supplies at the gate for the whole residential community. They box the goods and send them over to the households in need on their doorstep. The community-mentality present in communities like the one in Hefei has bought the community closer and provided hope for virus-affected families who know their community does not discriminate but instead lends a helpful hand.

As I conclude this article, I am writing in my lounge gazing longingly into the long-awaited London spring weather — an urge to go out and enjoy the Sun. It is only the start of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the UK. My wish is that the world can heal soon, with humanity coming together to fight this pandemic.

Edward Zhang