In no country in the world are as many people online as in the Middle Kingdom. They usually use the Internet much more intensively - but they see a completely different way than we in Europe.
China's Internet users live in another world.
China's Internet is another world behind a wall
You can also see it the other way around: If Chinese people get caught up in hotel W-Lan abroad, they suddenly have access to services that they know, if at all, only from hearsay. For example, this foreign world is made up of Facebook , Youtube, and Google.
On the largest social network of the planet founded by Mark Zuckerberg , for example, only a few Chinese are to be found; Facebook is blocked in the People's Republic, as well as tens of thousands of other sites from abroad. Especially since the oppositionists in the Arab Spring often organized their protest against the authorities on Facebook, the side of the Chinese Communist Party, which is always worried about its non-democratically legitimized autocracy, is a thorn in the side.
Although there is also the possibility in China, despite the locks on Facebook and all other sites to access. But this requires a so-called virtual private network, abbreviated VPN. This "data tunnel" suggests that the user does not want to access the restricted site from China, but, for example, from the United States.
Although the service is priced at around 10 euros per month, many middle-class Chinese people own a VPN. But the programs rarely run around - disturbances and an extremely slow connection establishment are the rule. In the past, Chinese censors have proven at important political events such as the People's Congress or Party Congress that they are able to bring the VPN to a standstill if they want to.
A complete blockade of Facebook & Co obviously does not want Beijing yet. In addition to the loss of prestige that the country is suffering from among foreign specialists, economic reasons also argue against a ban on VPN, because many Chinese companies and scientists depend on foreign services, such as the Google search engine . However, whether these arguments discourage China's leadership in the future from a total foreclosure of the Internet is not clear.
Social media are omnipresent
Instead of Facebook, China has Wechat, instead of Twitter Weibo. The social media channels have up to a billion users and are still almost unknown outside the country. But in China itself, people's online lives are all about "social media" - and with it, considerable parts of the economy.
About Wechat, so to speak, the digital Swiss Army knife made in China, on which the people from chatting about paying to booking travel to do almost all things of daily needs, much has been written. But who knows Pinduoduo in the West, an app with more than 200 million users? These talk on the app about everything - and join together in mutual sympathy to jointly perceive discounted purchase offers for food.
Xiaohongshu, an app with 30 million users, describes the "China Internet Report" published last year as a "mix of Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon". Young Chinese people in particular take pictures of themselves, giving them clues (tags) to the brand of clothing on their bodies or make-up on their faces. One click, and the products can be ordered home. Also on the social media channel of the video platform iQiyi, which has 126 million users, lively content is shared and commented on. The news channel Qutoutiao uses its users' contact network to increase its reach with financial incentives.
Streaming - unlike Netflix
Nowhere in the world is streaming so common as in China. Playback and transmission of video and audio files attracted more than 600 million users by the middle of last year, according to the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA). These watch almost exclusively short movies. CNSA estimated the market to be just under 12 billion yuan last year, which is equivalent to 1.5 billion euros, an increase of 106 percent over the previous year.
Even bigger - almost three times as big - is the market for "live streaming", ie the real-time transmission of video images. The live streaming app Momo, for example, has 100 million users who get to know each other on the platform and then watch each others' live streams. But there are also tens of millions in China watching live broadcasts of strangers without interacting with them. The fact that women are filming while being watched by a number of people in front of their smartphone screens, which corresponds to the population of entire European countries, is a Chinese phenomenon.
According to the will of the state leadership, live streaming should even make inequality in the country a little smaller. In remote areas in the mountainous hinterland, more and more pupils in the classroom no longer sit in front of teachers, but in front of monitors. On these live streaming lessons from high-quality urban schools are shown, which are sometimes thousands of miles away.
Internet giant Alibaba, which is always eager to support all government anti-poverty programs, also wants to help poor farmers sell their goods via live streaming on the group's e-commerce platforms. So a farmer in a 13-day transmission allegedly sold one million oranges - if this is true, but it is difficult to verify.
Three Giants mix with each other
Three letters dominate the Chinese Internet: BAT. These stand for the initial letters of the all-dominant companies Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent . Although these are still relatively young compared to Silicon Valley giants like Apple at the age of about twenty, no one can ignore them in the rapidly growing Chinese Internet.
China's Internet Giants
Market capitalization in billions of dollars
Whether it's e-commerce, streaming, artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, robotics or the news business: Alibaba and its two colleagues are represented everywhere with subsidiaries. If there is a new trend somewhere that an app created in Shanghai's back rooms picks up in a particularly smart way, it's not uncommon for one of the corporations to swallow it for a lot of money.
Young Internet entrepreneurs in China complain that the big three occasionally simply copy innovative business models without asking too much or simply copying a payment for the rights - and then using their marketing power to beat all competitors out of the field. It is clear that even China's government, the Internet giant at irregular intervals trimmed the wings so that they do not forget who has the shots in the country. For example, Alibaba founder Jack Ma recently announced his departure from the group at the age of just 50 - possibly because he has become ubiquitous in the life of the Chinese, as some observers suspect.
The search engine operator Baidu is punished by the regulators again and again because of fraudulent Internet search results. And Tencent's stock price has lost so much in the past year than any other paper in a large corporation - Beijing had previously pinpointed Tencent's video game business.
A huge rumor mill
The fact that the state security of the Chinese leadership has meanwhile arrested even construction workers who have made harmless jokes about members of a social network in a social network has to do with the fear of losing power. Beijing does not want to lose control over the discussions on the Internet, which were still in full swing before President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.
Anyone who dares to comment critically on China's Internet governance must reckon that the state authorities will soon be knocking on their door. The repression has increased noticeably in the past five years; Today, even those who express themselves too enthusiastically over state founder Mao Tse-tung can have problems.
Because the regime does not allow free press and tries to suppress any criticism, China's Internet is also a gigantic rumor mill. This promotes every day half-true or completely false information about everything and anyone out, which can drive the stock prices of companies sometimes quickly into the cellar.
According to many Internet users, the fact that China's housing market is at a terrible height for housing prices is one of the party's tactics to keep its subjects working, so they will not even have time to think about opposing one-party rule , There is no evidence for this theory - nor for the rumor that Beijing had one of the founders of the Aircraft Group and German bank major shareholder HNA killed in France.
It can become life-threatening when China's Internet users fall on individuals. For example, a shopkeeper from the hinterland once published a surveillance video from her shop, in which a student is allegedly seen during a theft. It only took a few hours until everyone could read their name, address and telephone number on the net. The next day and hundreds of hate-filled comments, the girl was dead. Shame on a bridge.