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  • Once every 12 months,

  • the world's largest human migration happens in China.

  • Over the 40-day travel period of Chinese New Year,

  • three billion trips are taken,

  • as families reunite and celebrate.

  • Now, the most strenuous of these trips are taken

  • by the country's 290 million migrant workers,

  • for many of whom this is the one chance a year

  • to go home and see parents and their left-behind children.

  • But the travel options are very limited;

  • plane tickets cost nearly half of their monthly salary.

  • So most of them, they choose the train.

  • Their average journey is 700 kilometers.

  • The average travel time is 15 and a half hours.

  • And the country's tracks now have to handle 390 million travelers

  • every Spring Festival.

  • Until recently,

  • migrant workers would have to queue for long hours -- sometimes days --

  • just to buy tickets,

  • often only to be fleeced by scalpers.

  • And they still had to deal with near-stampede conditions

  • when travel day finally arrived.

  • But technology has started to ease this experience.

  • Mobile and digital tickets now account for 70 percent of sales,

  • greatly reducing the lines at train stations.

  • Digital ID scanners have replaced manual checks,

  • expediting the boarding process,

  • and artificial intelligence is deployed across the network

  • to optimize travel routes.

  • New solutions have been invented.

  • China's largest taxi-hailing platform, called Didi Chuxing,

  • launched a new service called Hitch,

  • which matches car owners who are driving home

  • with passengers looking for long-distance routes.

  • In just its third year,

  • Hitch served 30 million trips in this past holiday season,

  • the longest of which was further than 1,500 miles.

  • That's about the distance from Miami to Boston.

  • This enormous need of migrant workers has powered fast upgrade and innovation

  • across the country's transport systems.

  • Now, the Chinese internet has developed in both familiar and unfamiliar ways.

  • Just like in Silicon Valley,

  • some of the seismic shifts in technology and consumer behavior

  • have been driven by academic research,

  • have been driven by enterprise desires,

  • with the whims of privilege and youth sprinkled in every once in a while.

  • I am a product of the American tech industry,

  • both as a consumer and a corporate leader.

  • So I am well acquainted with this type of fuel.

  • But about a year and a half ago,

  • I moved from my home in New York City to Hong Kong

  • to become the CEO of the South China Morning Post.

  • And from this new vantage point,

  • I've observed something that is far less familiar to me,

  • propelling so much of China's innovation and many of its entrepreneurs.

  • It is an overwhelming need economy

  • that is serving an underprivileged populous,

  • which has been separated for 30 years from China's economic boom.

  • The stark gaps that exist between the rich and the poor,

  • between urban and rural

  • or the academic and the unschooled --

  • these gaps, they form a soil

  • that's ready for some incredible empowerment.

  • So when capital and investment become focused on the needs of people

  • who are hanging to the bottom rungs of an economic ladder,

  • that's when we start to see the internet truly become a job creator,

  • an education enabler

  • and in many other ways, a path forward.

  • Of course, China is not the only place where this alternative fuel exists,

  • nor the only place where it is possible.

  • But because of the country's sheer scale and status as a rising superpower,

  • the needs of its population have created an opportunity

  • for truly compelling impact.

  • When explaining the rapid growth of the Chinese tech industry,

  • many observers will cite two reasons.

  • The first is the 1.4 billion people that call China home.

  • The second is the government's active participation --

  • or pervasive intervention, depending on how you view it.

  • Now, the central authorities have spent heavily on network infrastructure

  • over the years,

  • creating an attractive environment for investment.

  • At the same time, they've insisted on standards and regulation,

  • which has led to fast consensus and therefore, fast adoption.

  • The world's largest pool of tech talent exists

  • because of the abundance of educational incentives.

  • And local, domestic companies, in the past, have been protected

  • from international competition

  • by market controls.

  • Of course, you cannot observe the Chinese internet

  • without finding widespread censorship

  • and very serious concerns about dystopian monitoring.

  • As an example:

  • China is in the process of rolling out a social credit rating

  • that will cover its entire population,

  • rewarding and restricting citizens,

  • based on highly qualitative characteristics

  • like honesty and integrity.

  • At the same time,

  • China is deploying facial recognition

  • across many of its 170 million closed-circuit cameras.

  • Artificial intelligence is being used to predict crime and terrorism

  • in Xinjiang province,

  • where the Muslim minority is already under constant surveillance.

  • Yet, the internet has continued to grow, and it is so big --

  • much bigger than I think most of us realize.

  • By the end of 2017,

  • the Chinese internet population had reached 772 million users.

  • That's larger than the populations of the United States, Russia,

  • of Germany, of the United Kingdom, of France and Canada combined.

  • Ninety-eight percent of them are active on mobile.

  • Ninety-two percent of them use messaging apps.

  • There are now 650 million digital news consumers,

  • 580 million digital video consumers,

  • and the country's largest e-commerce platform, Taobao,

  • now boasts 580 million monthly active users.

  • It's about 80 percent larger than Amazon.

  • On-demand travel, between bikes and cars,

  • now accounts for 10 billion trips a year in China.

  • That's two-thirds of all trips taken around the world.

  • So it's a very mixed bag.

  • The internet exists in a restricted, arguably manipulated form within China,

  • yet it is massive and has vastly improved the lives of its citizens.

  • So even in its imperfection,

  • the growth of the Chinese internet should not be dismissed,

  • and it's worthy of our closer examination.

  • Let me tell you two other stories today.

  • Luo Zhaoliu is a 34-year-old engineer from Jiangxi province.

  • Now, his home region used to be extremely important to the Communist party

  • because this was the birthplace of the Red Army.

  • But over the decades, because of its separation

  • from the economic and manufacturing centers of the country,

  • it has slid into irrelevance.

  • Luo, like so many in his generation, left home at a young age

  • to look for work in a major city.

  • He ended up in Shenzhen, which is one of China's tech hubs.

  • As the young migrate,

  • these rural villages are left with only elderly,

  • who are really struggling to elevate themselves above abject poverty.

  • After nine years, Luo decided to return to Jiangxi in 2017,

  • because he believed that the booming e-commerce marketplace in China

  • could help him revive his village.

  • Like many rural communities,

  • Luo's home specialized in a very specific provincial craft --

  • making fermented bean curd, in this case.

  • So he started a small factory

  • and started selling his locally made goods online.

  • There have been many years of consumption growth

  • across China's major cities.

  • But recently, technology has been driving an explosion in craft goods sales

  • among China's middle and upper classes.

  • WeChat and other e-commerce platforms allow rural producers

  • to market and sell their goods

  • far beyond their original distribution areas.

  • Research companies actually track this impact

  • by counting what is called "Taobao villages."

  • This is any rural village where at least 10 percent of its households

  • are selling goods online and making a certain amount of revenue.

  • And the growth has been significant in the last few years.

  • There were just 20 Taobao villages in 2013,

  • 212 in 2014,

  • 780 in 2015,

  • 1,300 in 2016

  • and over 2,100 at the end of 2017.

  • They now account for nearly half a million active online stores,

  • 19 billion dollars in annual sales

  • and 1.3 million new jobs created.

  • In Luo's first year back home, he was able to employ 15 villagers.

  • And he sold about 60,000 units of fermented bean curd.

  • He expects to hire 30 more people in the next year,

  • as his demand rapidly rises.

  • There are 60 million left-behind children scattered across China's rural landscape.

  • And they grow up with at least one parent far away from home,

  • as a migrant worker.

  • Alongside all the general hardships of rural life,

  • they often have to travel vast and dangerous distances

  • just to get to school.

  • They account for 30 percent

  • of the country's primary and high school students.

  • Ten-year-old Chang Wenxuan is one of these students.

  • He walks an hour each way every single day to school,

  • across these deep ravines, in an isolated landscape.

  • But when he arrives at the small farming village in Gansu province,

  • he will find just two other students in this entire school.

  • Now, Chang's school is one of 1,000 in Gansu alone

  • that has less than five registered students.

  • So with limited student interaction,

  • with underqualified teachers

  • and schoolhouses that are barely furnished and not insulated,

  • rural students have long been disadvantaged,

  • with almost no path to higher education.

  • But Chang's future has been dramatically shifted

  • with the installation of a “Sunshine Classroom.”

  • He's now part of a digital classroom of 100 students

  • across 28 different schools,

  • taught by qualified and certified teachers

  • live-streaming from hundreds of miles away.

  • He has access to new subjects like music and art,

  • to new friends

  • and to experiences that extend far beyond his home.

  • Recently, Chang even got to visit the Frederiksborg Castle museum

  • in Denmark --

  • virtually, of course.

  • Now, online education has existed for many years outside of China.

  • But it has never reached truly transformative scale,

  • likely because traditional education systems

  • in other tech centers of the world

  • are far more advanced and far more stable.

  • But China's extreme terrain and size

  • have created an enormous and immediate need for innovation.

  • There's a tech start-up in Shenzhen that grew to 300,000 students

  • in just one year.

  • And by our best estimation at the Post,

  • there are now 55 million rural students across China

  • that are addressable and accessible by live-streaming classes.

  • This market of need is larger than the entire US student population

  • between kindergarten and grade 12.

  • So I'm extremely encouraged to find out

  • that private investment in ed-tech in China

  • now exceeds one billion dollars a year,

  • with another 30 billion dollars in public funding

  • that is committed between now and 2020.

  • As the Chinese internet continues to grow,

  • even in its imperfection and restrictions and controls,

  • the lives of its once-forgotten populations

  • have been irrevocably elevated.

  • There is a focus on populations of need, not of want,

  • that has driven a lot of the curiosity, the creativity

  • and the development that we see.

  • And there's still more to come.

  • In America, internet population, or penetration,

  • has now reached 88 percent.

  • In China, the internet has still only reached 56 percent of the populous.

  • That means there are over 600 million people

  • who are still offline and disconnected.

  • That's nearly twice the US population.

  • An enormous opportunity.

  • Wherever this alternative fuel exists,

  • be it in China or Africa, Southeast Asia or the American heartland,

  • we should endeavor to follow it with capital and with effort,

  • driving both economic and societal impact all over the world.

  • Just imagine for a minute what more could be possible

  • if the global needs of the underserved become the primary focus

  • of our inventions.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Once every 12 months,

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【TED】Gary Liu: The rapid growth of the Chinese internet -- and where it's headed (The rapid growth of the Chinese internet -- and where it's headed | Gary Liu)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2018/08/06
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