Weibo. iPhones. Self-heating lunchboxes. Among the flashing lights and towering skyscrapers, there is a technological market exploding in Beijing. Luckily, there’s a new kid on the block named Beijing Tech Report, ready to report on all your technology questions.
Our friends at BJTR have been blogging about technology since last November and they have already had quite a spread of articles. Below are some of their best:
- A Tale of Two Travel Sites: eLong vs. Ctrip – Need a guide to travelling around China? BJTR highlights the pros/cons of these e-ticket sites.
- Ticket Snatching 101 – After you learn how to buy tickets online, definitely check out one of the extensions BJTR recommends for your web browser. They let you “cut” the online ticket line.
- Barcamp – If you like TED talks and are curious about Beijing’s tech scene, look no further than Barcamp. Prepare for the next conference by reading up on this big event that took place at Microsoft in Zhongguancun.
- VPNs – As China cracks down on VPN servers, now might be the time to try Amazon’s EC2 Cloud as an alternative to VPN subscriptions in order to get past the Great Firewall.
- Air Quality Apps – Is that fog or smog? Be the first to know what’s in that Beijing air with the best apps for your phone.
The masterminds behind the blog are Paul Bischoff and Rebecca Bowring. Bischoff is strong at reporting on the “technical side of tech” and features consumer-centric articles. Bowring is more focused on trends, start-ups and social media.
Five-and-a-half months ago, Bischoff came to China for an adventure armed with three years of Chinese study in the U.S. and high hopes for practicing journalism. Bowring moved in October 2012 to Beijing, a place “bursting with energy and dynamism while Europe was in a state of panic, simply trying to stabilize itself in the midst of the debt crisis.”
Observing technology in the dynamic markets of Beijing must be very exciting. Bowring noted some changes in recent years. Despite the difficulty of launching a company here, for reasons such as poor access to funding and cultural issues like risk aversion, many businesses are developing small-scale start-ups. A newly formed support network helps those “many Chinese entrepreneurs [who] are older than their Western counterparts, and come from mainstream business,” she said. Bischoff agreed, noting: “The tech market in Beijing is growing right alongside the rest of China, but the community of ideas like what you see in Silicon Valley is still very young.”
In the future, Bischoff anticipates more start-ups. Zhongguancun, located on subway line 4, provides a glimpse of China’s up-and-coming Silicon Valley. Both bloggers also predict a surge in social networking. Just by observing fellow commuters on the subway, you may see every other person using chat apps like Tencent’s Weixin or concentrating on their mobile gaming. A large revolution will take place online. Bowring said that the service industry may expand. More people will be able to buy things online and have them delivered to their homes. Bischoff noted the increasing social media presence: “I also think we’ll see companies whose products and services are based online have more run-ins or controversies about censorship. Technology is inherently democratizing.”
Beijing itself is set to become more cosmopolitan, too. With a low cost of living, many foreigners hope to make it big in the world of Chinese web services and apps. “It’s a slow process, but Beijing is going to be a really exciting entrepreneurial hub ten years from now,” Bowring said.
In the meantime, both tech bloggers will keep their hopes high for new inventions. Bischoff dreams of more innovation in manufacturing in the country that does it best. 3D printers may come to America in the next 10 or 15 years, and China may be next in line. Bischoff also hopes China’s tech market will start targeting its lower-class, rather than just creating “fancy gadgets for well-off princelings.”
Bowring praised existing technology in Beijing like the subway system: clean, efficient and streamlined with integrated advertising. But maybe future technology in Beijing will be simpler: “Going to the bathroom can be the most basic experience on earth. I’d be happy to have the odd heated toilet seat, or at least more self-flushing squat toilets.”