Asia: The Wired Continent – China

Welcome to part four of the five-part series on Asia, “The Wired Continent.”  In this edition, JustAskGemalto explores digital life in China.

Mobile phones are part of everyday life in China. It is now the world’s largest cellular marketplace with 785 million subscribers, just over half of the population.  The population is using mobile phones in many innovative ways in addition to the ever-popular ringtones and music downloads.

Exciting Mobile Phone Market

One of innovative ways people are using mobile phones is for mobile payment.  With mobile payment, consumers can pay for a wide range of goods and services using specially developed mobile phones.

Recently there was a mobile payment trial in the Chinese province of Chongqing.  By using contactless payment, consumers can pay for travel on the regional transit network, along with a range of other goods and services.  This type of payment is becoming increasingly popular in China.  Recently, IT research firm Analysis International reported that last year, 27.16 million used contactless payment.  This year, the number is expected to nearly double to 49.16 million contactless users.  The reason for such an increase? In China, less people are used to using bank cards to pay for goods and services.  So, mobile payment is a great alternative to cards and cash.

Mobile TV

Another service that is rapidly taking off in China is mobile TV.  This growth can be traced back to March 22, 2010, when China Mobile together with CBC (China Broadcasting Cooperation) announced the official commercial launch of CMMB (China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting) Mobile TV service.  CMMB is a mobile television and multimedia standard developed by China. The network rolled out in more than 300 cities around the country, offers access to six channels. As 3G subscribers grow, the potential market for mobile TV provider results in impressive market gain.

Mobile Phone Growth in Villages

With almost 100 percent mobile phone penetration in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the greatest mobile phone growth in China today is occurring in smaller cities and rural areas.  In order to attract users in these areas, mobile operators are offering them applications built especially for them.  One example is China Mobile’s Agricultural Information Service.  The service, which costs 2 renminbi (about 30 US cents) per month for each category of information, provides information on how to raise crops and animals, market prices for various products, weather, and news.

Social Media

Chinese citizens use their mobile phones and computers at home and at work to access social media sites.  Social media has caught on massively in China in the past few years: There are 221 million blogs and 176 million social network users.  Chinese social media sites are also making the bulk of their revenue from sales of virtual avatars and applications – not online advertising like in the United States and United Kingdom.

China has dozens of networks that are thriving. Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) are especially popular – users can upload pictures, video and more and remain anonymous in the forum.  Some of the most popular ones, from local providers, are QZone, Baidu and 51. Chinese citizens are often creating and reading content on blogs or message boards.  For example, novels are often published online and then if it is popular, it will get printed.  BBS is the “word of mouth” of China – users discuss the latest trends in automobiles, cosmetics, mobile phones, and more.  They even use them to work together to get discounts – it is not uncommon for BBS users to buy cars at the same time to get discounts.

China is also home to the largest online dating site in the world.  Zhenai has 22 million accounts and is considered a very useful service in China.  Matches are made via 350 dating counselors who call and check in after dates, and get direct feedback in order to improve users’ dating and success rates.


To Sum Up:


  • China is the world’s largest mobile phone marketplace with 785 million subscribers
  • Chinese mobile subscribers are avidly downloading music and ringtones
  • Other innovative ways the mobile phone is used in China are for mobile payment and mobile TV
  • Rural Chinese are also increasingly using mobile phones for applications targeted to them, such as a Agricultural Information Service
  • Social media has caught on massively in China in the past few years, with dozens of networks that are thriving, including Zhenai, the largest online dating site in the world


Coming Up Next:


Next, JustAskGemalto presents the next part of the five-part series, Asia, “The Wired Continent.”  Watch this space for Part 5.