20 Resources to Understand China Tech Ecosystem
Below is a non-exhaustive list of English-language resources to follow what is going on within the Great Firewall of China.
It’s particularly striking to witness how low the awareness is amongst foreigners about Chinese tech juggernauts ; the BATX (Baidu Alibaba Tencent, Xiaomi). The GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) is capturing all westerners’ attention span and it’s natural that very few of them know about the Chinese ecosystem.
To be fair, China’s unique tech space is hard to comprehend when you are not living it. It’s been 7 years for me, and I’m often flabbergasted.
For the past 2 years, I have been involved with Le Wagon, a global training program operating in China and 19 other countries. Our mission is to bring practical and technical skills to all entrepreneurs.
Not surprisingly, our teams in Shanghai and Chengdu receive lots of applications to join the program, ranging from young foreign professionals to wicked smart talents from all over the world…
In the 21st century, China is where innovation is happening. Global talents are rushing to get involved!
One issue for Le Wagon is welcoming those laowais (“foreigners” in Chinese language); it is putting an extra burden — and risk — on our team, not only they have to train those new recruits with practical and technical skills but also help them close the gap between China and the West.
The cultural gap is deeper when we talk about tech between China and the outside world.
China is a whole new canvas.
Although we had to turn down lots of applications from non-Chinese candidates, on this basis, I also took the decision early on to stay true to our mission and share resources with all of them so they could to catch up. It also became a mandatory assignment before enrolling on our intensive program. Getting ready is a key success factor. They must build up an entirely new product culture for the insane Chinese market.
For the benefit of everyone who can read this article, I’m sharing my — strongly — recommended media list. These list of people produce great English-language content to decrypt China tech space.
Resources to learn about China tech space
4 types of resources:
- Podcasts: When you wake up, while having breakfast, on the go, always in your earbuds. Easy way to learn and stay on top!
- Blogs: To be checked weekly at least. There’s clearly a content overload in 2018, it’s hard to keep up.
- WeChat subscriptions: That’s where you receive all the latest hot updates. Not easy to archive and digest though.
- Books: Take one on the plane or during your next digital detox, immerse yourself in the Chinese world!
English language podcasts about China tech space
996 Podcast with GGV Capital By SupChina
Co-hosted by Hans Tung and Zara Zhang at GGV Capital (Sino-American VC firm), this podcast brings you insights from some of the most renowned leaders in China tech space: Baidu’s Andrew Ng, Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, Dianping, Toutiao, etc.
In case you are wondering what the name means: in China, “996” means working from 9am to 9pm 6 day a week. The schedule is the way to go for many internet companies in China! And there is no overtime pay or bonuses.
Co-hosted by Michael Michelini and Shlomo Freund, two business veterans in China, this podcast has been around since 2013 (hats off!) and tend to feature experienced entrepreneurs, incubators people, media folks sharing their advice. A great place to get inspired by some of the real hustlers, and learn a few tricks.
China Tech Talk by TechNode x ChinaChannel
Co-hosted by John Artman, editor-in -chief at Technode and Matthew Brennan, founder of chinachannel.co, this weekly podcast will update you on everything hot happening in the tech space. Those two guys are real insiders at the front of the battleground. They decrypt what’s going on and branstorm on what the next trend will be, instead of only picking brains of their guests.
This show is produced by a network of Yale graduates working in China’s top VCs. They focus on interviewing CEOs and MDs of top startups such as few Strikingly, Tezign, Ofo, etc.
Beertelligence by Brandon Owens & Momo Estrella
Very fun duo in real life, Brandon & Momo co-host this show and go beyond the success stories: they grill tons of great people, mostly their friends, with witty questions. By listening at this podcast, expect to learn about China tech, design, product & entrepreneurship, discover superb ideas for great people stories.
There’s a great content overlap on the above since 90% of them have interviewed the same analysts, Mobike and Ofo execs, or discussed the most recent WeChat developments. They do have their own unique selling proposition though: 996 stands out for the notorious guests they bring to the table; China Tech Talk for their analysis; Beertelligence for the swag; The Harbinger for the VC angle; ChinaBusinessCast for the operational advice.
English language blogs about China tech space
Zara Zhang (same Zara of 996 Podcast) is sharing her personal observations about the Chinese startup scene, as an investment analyst in a VC firm. Prior to this role, Zara was a reporter covering the China tech industry. She makes really interesting write ups!
China Tech Insights
Industry research and opinions from business insiders. CTI is run by analysts from Tencent Online Media Group. They know what they are talking about.
A pioneer in covering China tech space, all in English. Technode is the official Chinese partner of TechCrunch. Their editors have first-hand insights working directly on the ground: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and elsewhere.
Tech In Asia, China
Chinese startups, breakthrough ideas, investments and stats at the regional level… TechInAsia features Eva Xiao, Shanghai-based reporter to cover the Chinese market.
The WeChat bible. Matthew Brennan and his team started from humble beginnings to become the go-to English hub for everything WeChat marketing. They also organize the largest WeChat business conference once every year.
Walk the Chat
On E-commerce cross-border and everything Chinese tech, you want to follow this blog ran by Thomas Graziani and his Beijing-based expert team. I often disagree with their views but the content is extremely informative anyhow!
FinTech, crypto and banking systems are covered at the regional level by Kapron, a FinTech consultancy. If you want to learn about the Chinese bitcoin industry, in-depth, it’s a great start.
English language or bilingual WeChat subscriptions about China tech space
WeChat id: “ACTNewsEng”
Hottest tech stories are covered by this media. They touch on a variety of topics without going in-depth, so it’s a good start for some of you.
WeChat id: “ulmedialab”
Case studies, trends reports, consumer reports… this WeChat account is posting bi-lingual articles with a very deep level of research. Highly recommended.
WeChat id: “tech88co”
Daily news about Chinese startups. A very good subscription to stay tuned with all announcements and know the latest releases on our vibrant market
WeChat id: “lewagoncodingstation”
Come on. Of course you want to follow this one! Aligned with our mission, the Le Wagon team produces reports and practical guides to help entrepreneurs launch a software business. You will find tons of articles about WeChat development capabilities in particular.
WeChat id: “grata_co”
Beijing-based SaaS startup is often broadcasting macro reports on messaging trends, WeChat integrations and digital marketing in China. Highly recommended.
WeChat id: “EdwardTse_GF”
Dr. Edward Tse was the China head of the renowned Boston Consulting Group for 20 years. His viewpoints and essays on China cover macroeconomics, international politics, business and strategy at a very high level.
On top of the above, all blogs mentioned earlier have their own WeChat subscriptions…
English language books about China tech space
Must read. This is the book for every person who is wondering how China’s explosive growth in business is going to impact the rest of the world. It combines the history of Entrepreneurship in China (four decades covered), then profiles the strategy and the execution of the best Chinese entrepreneurs of all times.
Fascinating story written by Porter Erisman, the only foreign PR/Vice President in Alibaba’s early stages. A clear explanation from its humble beginnings in Hong Kong and rural China to its present-day dominance of the online China trade. The book was adapted in a documentary named: The Alibaba Story — Crocodile in the Yangtze; also a good one to watch.
Great read to understand the ongoing power balance between Chinese and U.S. tech behemoths. Former Google China head Kai Fu Lee (and one of the most plugged-in AI investors on the planet) shares invaluable insights about the factors driving today’s AI ecosystems; China’s extraordinary inroads in AI implementation; where autonomous systems are headed; how we’ll need to adapt.
If you found this list useful, please share it to your friends on a life journey with China 🇨🇳
If you have suggestions to this list, I’d love to hear from you, and credit you below.