Geographies in Depth

Six things we learned about China in August

Customers look at a DJI's Phantom 3 drone at their first flagship store in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China December 20, 2015.

It's take-off time for China's drone market Image: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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1. China’s digital payment market is 50 times bigger than America’s. Research from Tencent, China’s mobile and media giant, shows that cash continues to decline. Last year, Chinese consumers spent $5.5 trillion through mobile payment platforms, with young people and women leading the charge. More than half (52%) of users on the social platform WeChat said they conduct less than a fifth of their monthly transactions with cash.

Image: 2017 Mobile Payment Usage in China Report

2. In China, you can use an app to report pollution – and summon a drone. China already dominates the global drone market with about 70% market share, but it is becoming increasingly inventive at home. Drones are now used to investigate citizens’ complaints about pollution, to light up the sky as a clean alternative to fireworks, and to spray crops. According to the South China Post, drones helped to bring pollution in the manufacturing hub of Dongguan down to levels close to central Paris.

3. China installed more industrial robots than any other nation last year. It bought a third of the world’s new robots, with shipments jumping 27% to 90,000 units, as part of its “Made in China 2025” plan to create the automated factories of the future. It’s also building its own intelligent machines. A Bloomberg report says China’s increasing automation will have knock-on effects for the global economy.

4. China’s most innovative company is not digital. The highest ranking Chinese entrant on Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most innovative companies isn’t tech, it’s biotech. Shanghai RAAS Blood Products, which applies new technology to healthcare, ranked fourth in the world. Overall, six Chinese companies made the cut: Tencent came in 24th, Kangde Xin Composite Material Group was 47th, online travel firm Ctrip 55th, search leader Baidu 60th and pharmaceuticals supplier Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine 82nd.

5. China has a head start in the race for AI. China already has the fastest two supercomputers in the world. When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, the country has three advantages, according to Bloomberg: “A vast pool of engineers to write the software, a massive base of 751 million internet users to test it on, and most importantly staunch government support that includes handing over gobs of citizens’ data –- something that makes Western officials squirm.”

6. China is building the world’s most powerful laser. The new “Station of Extreme Light” scientific complex will use a laser 20 times more powerful than its predecessors to simulate conditions in the core of stars and black holes. It’s part of China’s focused investment in fundamental science.

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Geographies in DepthFourth Industrial Revolution
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