Every quarter, Econsultancy delivers an update on the major internet players in China and their user experience.

Subscribers can download the full China Digital Report, but I’ve had a skirt through and picked out some interesting bits you may or may not know about digital in China.

1. State media control

On 19 February, 2016, China announced it will ban all companies with part foreign ownership from delivering online content in China without prior approval.

Media companies have always needed an operating licence but this latest announcement tightens regulation further, meaning big publishers will soon have to deliver their content via a local company.

2. Blocked websites

The so-called ‘Great Firewall of China’ blocks websites deemed a threat to state security or culture and tradition.

Here are some of the sites currently blocked:

blocked in china 

Update: Jeff Rajeck writes about changes to the Great Firewall in 2017.

3. Internet users are urban

Despite a population that is 46% rural (2014 World Ban figures), fully 72% of internet users are actually urban, residing in big cities.

china internet citizens

4. Impressive WeChat user growth

WeChat enjoyed annual monthly-active user (MAU) growth of 30%-40% from Q3 2014 to Q3 2015.

Facebook’s year-on-year MAU growth in Asia over the same period was around 16%.

WeChat’s 2015 annual report states that nearly 76% of internet users in China use WeChat ‘regularly’ and almost all these users are on mobile.

wechat user growth

5. Adding someone on WeChat

Sticking with WeChat, the platform offers some interesting user experiences.

There are a number of ways to add people to a WeChat contact list. Traditionally this includes:

  • Using a WeChat ID.
  • From contacts already on the user’s phone.
  • Via contact lists on other networks including QQ, Google, and LinkedIn.

However, WeChat has also introduced some innovative ways to add contacts:

  • Add friends or strangers who are physically nearby.
  • Use of QR codes.
  • Shake to add someone else who is shaking at the same time.

For example, a small group can add each other on WeChat at the same time by shaking, without having to laboriously ask for each other’s phone. 

6. QR codes are popular

QR codes are used for a variety of purposes in China.

I’ve detailed 10 of them below. To read about these use cases in more detail, see 10 practical uses for QR codes in China.

  • Following WeChat accounts.
  • WeChat CRM.
  • Sharing contact information.
  • Transferring money.
  • Making offline payments.
  • Product history and verification.
  • Installing apps.
  • Website login.
  • WiFi login.
  • Hotspot access.

7. The scale of Alibaba

Alibaba sold products worth $14.3bn on Single’s Day on 11 November 2015. As a comparison, in the US, Black Friday (25th November) drew $4.45bn across all retailers.

Taobao is Alibaba’s C2C ecommerce platform and Tmall is its B2C platform.

The chart below shows the relative scale of each.

alibaba gross revenue

8. Third-party online payments

Tenpay, Tencent’s payment system that integrates with WeChat, is gaining ground but Alipay still dominates the market.

Data from November 2015 shows Alipay has a 45% share of all online payments by third parties, however this rises to 70% share on mobile.

payment share in china

9. Sina Weibo drops character limit

Sina Weibo has been much talked about over the past three years as possibly in decline, since the state prevented anonymous accounts.

However, the Twitter-esque platform has 200m MAUs and its VIP users bring in revenue with a monthly fee.

Just as Twitter is planning to scrap its character limit, Weibo did this in January 2016, allowing 2,000 characters instead of a mere 140.

10. ASOS continues its China adventure

ASOS has been active in China since late 2013.

In October, 2015 new CEO Nick Beighton said China was still a “key market” for ASOS, and acknowledged that the company was still in “startup mode” in the country.

The company expects losses of £5m-£7m over 2016 in China as it builds its offer.

For a full case study of ASOS’s marketing in China, download the quarterly China Digital Report.