AllChinaTech is now AllTechAsia!

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AllChinaTech has been up and running for the last 22 months. As the only English tech media startup in China, our dedicated team has produced more than 1,800 English stories on China’s tech industry.

Our mission is simple: to connect the world with the startup ecosystem in China, which is a robust market backed by 700 million Internet users. Today, technology has deeply affected Chinese consumers who are in turn inspiring the future of product design and direction of technology development.

As our platform grows, we realize that China’s startup ecosystem does not exist on its own. Of our 300,000 readers, 95 percent of them come from outside of China. Readers from East and Southeast Asia register the most rapid growth for our news subscription. Together with our readers from the United States, Australia and Europe, they contribute to our highest monthly engagement rate of 1.5 million.

With the introduction of two new news columns AllTechIndia (ATI) and AllTechKorea (ATK), AllChinaTech will now be transformed as AllTechAsia (ATA). Tech news from China will be channeled into our AllTechChina (ATC) column from now on. ATK is opened with full support by our partner and South Korea’s top tech media outlet Platum.

ATA has started to expand its offline presence in South Korea via ATK and it will vitalize Korea- and China cross -border startup collaboration opportunities. Furthermore, we believe that with the creation of these new channels, (ATI – India and ATK – Korea), we can better connect to the startup ecosystem across Asia. With our partnerships with top tech media outlets, our reporting will cover the full tech scoop in Asia. We invite our readers to connect with our stories to help them discover new business opportunities, big ideas on technology, and the future beyond with our new English news service.

Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to bring you more exciting tech news with AllTechAsia!

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The story behind AllTechAsia team

I am Wu Nan, a veteran journalist educated at UC Berkeley and Harvard. I’ve worked at some of the most influential Chinese and international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal and the South China Morning Post.

After living through first-hand the decline of traditional media outlets, I am now determined to make a difference in the profession I love deeply. In August 2015, I founded AllChinaTech, China’s TechCrunch-like English tech media startup.

The digital media era has liberated the way people consume information, think and act. Journalists and readers alike have more freedom to express themselves and communicate with the rest of the world, simply by blogging, posting and sharing on social networks. Traditional journalistic norms such as style, genre and beats are quickly disintegrating. As long as you deliver meaningful information to the right people, you’ve done your job and won your audience.

Wu Nan, CEO and Editor in Chief, AllTechAsia

That is where our new brand AllTechAsia comes in. With multicultural backgrounds, our teammates have studied and lived in different parts of the world – the United States, Europe, China, India, South Korea, and Southeast Asia.

Our goal is to share our insights and analysis of the tech industry in Asia, and to use the most compelling storytelling through interviews with industry leaders and startup founders. We also aspire to share big ideas and trends in the IT industry, innovation, and technology across the whole of Asia and connect with readers from the rest of the world.

We believe that tech empowers the world, and we invite you to join us on a fascinating journey to see the future.

Are power bank rentals just a price bubble in China?

While the idea of bike-sharing has taken China by storm in the past year, investors are now looking to create another hot vertical under the buzzword “sharing economy”— power bank rentals.

This is insane. Within 40 days, investors in China have poured in RMB 1.2 billion (USD 174 million) worth of funds into power bank rental startups, local media reports. Here are some highlights of the latest sharing economy craze.

Xiaodian, a Tencent-backed power bank rental startup, announced it has secured RMB 350 million (USD 51 million) in Series B financing this month, led by Sequoia Capital and Banyan Capital. Existing investor Tencent also participated in this round of financing.

Ankerbox last month received a USD 14.5 million Series A financing from IDG and Sunwoda. Then in early May, Jumei, a cosmetics e-commerce giant which was previously listed on NASDAQ, announced to purchase around 60 percent of stake in Ankerbox for RMB 300 million (USD 44 million).

Hidian, a Shanghai-based power bank rental startup, this month received RMB 100 million (USD 14.5 million) for its Series A round from Light Speed China Partners. Laidian, another startup in the power bank rental business, secured USD 20 million in its Series A round from SIG and Redpoint Ventures China last month.

The sudden influx of massive financing shows how anxious investors have been about not wanting to be left behind in the investment craze over power bank rentals. The speed of investment we are seeing here is much faster than that of bike-sharing investments last year. However, there has been talk in the industry saying that power bank rentals are more of a fake demand in comparison with bike rentals.

An Ankerbox charging station at Donuts Cafe in a mall in Beijing. Photo by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech.
An Ankerbox charging station at Donuts Cafe in a mall in Beijing. Photo by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech.

This is how power bank rentals work. The companies either set up fixed charging stations or allow users to take away portable power banks. Xiaodian adopts the first approach, where it has placed charging booths in public spaces such as restaurants and subway stations. Ankerbox and Laidian, on the other hand, allow users to rent portable power banks that they can take away and return it at designated stations. Most of the startups charge nothing for the first hour of rental, and charge RMB 1 per hour or so after that.

It may seem easy to rent a power bank from these stations, but to be honest – do people really need it? AllChinaTech visited an Ankerbox station located in a cafe in a busy shopping mall one Friday afternoon in Beijing. In one hour, only one user rented the power bank. “I find it convenient, as now I need to charge my iPhone 7 so I won’t miss calls from my child’s kindergarten teacher,” said Yang Lili, a first-time user of power bank rental services. Yang usually comes to the coffee shop at around 3 p.m. to wait to pick up her three-year-old child from the kindergarten across the street. “My purse can’t fit a portable power bank, so it is very convenient for me to rent it from here,” she said.

Power bank rentals can indeed come in handy for scenarios like these. However, the demand for this convenient service may decrease as technology evolves. Many smartphones nowadays come with long battery lives, and most of them can support one charge per day. Moreover, it is not much of a hassle to carry our own power banks around as well. This is certainly different from shared bikes, which are difficult to carry around but provide an easier way to commute. It is totally fair to say that there is more demand for bike rental services, but not so much for power bank rentals.

Also, the psychology behind this investment is worth noting. Chinese investors seem to be quite open and willing to pour money into items that come with low costs, short design cycles and fast cost recovery. Haidian’s founder Yuan Bingsong told local press that it only takes 45 days for them to recover the cost of one power bank irrespective of the machine and venue cost. And now, everything that sounds rather relevant to the sharing economy can potentially be the next big thing in China’s investment arena.

As investors and founders of these power bank rental startups seem optimistic about the future of this business, they have also come up with a statement that can give themselves a way out. “If it [the startup] fails, let’s just say we’re serving the public,” wrote Jumei’s CEO Chen Ou in a Weibo post. Chen became Ankerbox’s chairman after making a huge investment in the startup. Yuan has also claimed that the business can still do good to society even if it fails, according to local media.

In this case, it might not come as a surprise that investors in China are favoring power bank rentals so much. However, these startups must figure out a clearer business model that will last long. Otherwise, with the fast developing technology and more mobile phones with better battery capabilities being released, these business models of power bank rentals might soon die out in the foreseeable future.

Read also: Top investments in China’s power bank rental scene

(Top photo from freegreatpicture.com.)

Meet Air Matters: the app alerting millions on air quality

Beijing residents found themselves engulfed in the smog’s tyranny this past winter. Many were unable to stroll outdoors for long periods of time or meet their friends without checking the air conditions first.

Data from local authorities show that Beijing saw air conditions for half of the days in February as unhealthy or very unhealthy based on the United States’ Air Quality Index (AQI) standards.

Getting information of real-time air conditions has become an essential need. Air Matters, whose developer and management team consist of only four members, broadcasts air quality information to its 9.4 million users.

When app-savvy developers meet severe air conditions

The creators of the app, Wang Jun and Zhang Bin, seized the golden age for app developers.

Back in 2010 and 2011, Apple unveiled the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. These two phones were the benchmarks for smartphones, and made it possible for the birth of apps.

Wang and Zhang, both aged 29 in 2011, were responsible for product research and development targeting companies at Baidu. But their ambition went beyond that, and they aimed to develop something fun for consumers.

From left to right: Wang Jun, Zhang Bin, and their colleagues. Photo provided by Wang Jun
From left to right: Wang Jun, Zhang Bin, and their colleagues. Photo provided by Wang Jun.

Their opportunity came in late October 2011 when the United States embassy in China wrote this Weibo post: “Beijing’s AQI 439, PM 2.5 is 408.0, The air is hazardous.”

This was the first time that Chinese citizens heard of “AQI”, and “PM 2.5” which is also known as fine particulate matter. PM 2.5 travels deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Scientific studies have shown the link between increases in PM 2.5 exposure and more respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions. On the day of the embassy’s eye-opening Weibo post, the PM 2.5 concentration was 16 times that of the World Health Organization’s recommended air quality guidelines.

The embassy’s Weibo post caused a huge sensation on China’s social media, as Chinese netizens became increasingly concerned with the release of public air quality data and PM 2.5 index.

Thus, Wang and Zhang decided to develop an app that enables users to check real-time air quality. They named it the “China Air Quality Index”.

An app by the people, for the people

At that time, several other people and companies looked into making primitive air quality apps, but this did not include functions like notifications or historical data. The two soon realized that the market needed a better app on air quality.

Two weeks after they started working on the app in November 2011, they were able to develop and submit the 1.0 version app for review.

The app’s first batch of users – also the app’s seed users – downloaded the app after it was recommended by people they knew.

On 4 December 2011, a heavy smog shrouded Beijing. Yao Chen, nicknamed “China’s Angelina Jolie” for her sexy thick lips, wrote a Weibo post about the smog with a China Air Quality Index screenshot citing a PM 2.5 reading at 481. Also known as the “Queen of Weibo”, Yao has 80 million followers. Other celebrities including real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi and tech guru Kai-Fu Lee also posted screenshots of the app on their Weibo accounts.

Screenshot from Yao Chen's Weibo post
Screenshot from Yao Chen’s Weibo post

The celebrity effect led to an explosion of downloads which excited the two developers. Within two weeks after the smog, the app saw 50,000 more users from Beijing and other cities across China.

“It was encouraging to see so many people download the app and tell us that it’s useful,” said Wang Jun, the co-founder of the app. “We aim to develop the best air quality app and enable users to check the data on smartphones conveniently.”

Though the app was popular, the developers were unable to earn enough to support themselves. They had to do some outsourced technical work to make ends meet.

In 2013, along with frequent smoggy weather, downloads of the app ranked second place among all free apps in China’s App Store, making it the most downloaded air quality app.

That same year, the app grew profitable enough to support the team. In January 2013, its users reached 970,000. The app reached a milestone when Switzerland-based IQ Air, an air purifier company, signed a contract with the team for a one-year advertisement. Before this, the app only gained revenue through an advertisement software development kit (SDK) where income was based on users clicking on ads.

Till now, the app has yet to raise any investment funds. “We have fended off investment or acquisition offers from many air purifier companies. Although this is slower, it is safer and our app remains reliable,” Wang told AllChinaTech. However, Wang added that they would welcome investment if the investor allows the app to maintain its neutrality.

Screenshots from Air Matters App
Air Matters displays real-time air quality, air forecast, and history data on its app. Screenshots from Air Matters App.

The technology behind the data

Over the past few years, the developer team has focused on technology in order to make the app more stable, the data more comprehensive, and the updates faster.

China’s rampant smog has fuelled the boom of air quality apps. Now, search results relating to “air” in the App Store amount to the hundreds. Among all these apps, Air Matters has continued to thrive. The secret is that the app quickly adjusts when one monitor station changes the way they broadcast their data.

So far, the app provides air quality data from more than 10,000 monitor stations and from over 50 countries.

In 2012, Chinese cities did not release air quality data on a large scale yet. Wang said that some cities including Beijing, Wuhan, and Xiamen, published PM 2.5 data on a pilot basis. “As soon as there was one more release, we immediately included it in our app,” added Wang.

Now, 114 Chinese cities publish AQI and PM 2.5 readings, and there are already several monitor stations in major cities like Beijing.

The developer team also made a lot of effort to keep the app relevant. From the app’s early days, the team has kept one feature that is unusual in the smartphone era – it offers users the option to make the app show real-time AQI as a desktop icon so that users do not have to open the app to get updated information.

Going global

By October last year, the app had 8.7 million users, and made more revenue from advertisement. The growth of the app feeds much bigger dreams. The founders changed the app’s name to Air Matters and made a new gradient blue logo symbolising the atmosphere.

“We hope our users around the world can check air quality data in the language and standards they are most familiar with,” said Wang.

Over time, the app added six more languages to the app apart from Chinese. The languages include English, French, and German, and these cover most of the world’s population. The team is planning to add more languages including Italian and Dutch.

Global air quality map. Photo from Air Matters' website.
Global air quality map. Photo from Air Matters’ website.

In preparation for worldwide expansion, the app will include more air quality standards to target users in various regions based on their habits – going beyond offering just a translated version of the app.

For pollutant readings, pollen is the latest category added to Air Matters’ already wide array of gauges for pollutants such as PM 2.5 and nitrogen dioxide.

“Pollen can be fatal to sensitive people in some cases. We are working to provide more pollen data in more regions,” said Wang.

The team has purchased data from the United States’ leading pollen data company Pollen.com. In Europe, the app now provides pollen data for Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.

On top of that, Air Matters’ partners will help with its growth. Philips has made Air Matters the only app connected to its air purifiers, and on Saturday noticed its users uninstalling the Philips app.

“We gave the app a new name – Air Matters, and we care about all things that matter in the air we live in,” said Wang.

This is a branded content article written in collaboration with Air Matters.

Read also: Air Matters: the app based on big data supports a smart home system

(Top photo from Pixabay.com.)

Photos: The “ofo bike graveyard” shows Chinese vandalism has reached new heights

This is shocking.

China’s streets are now thronged with bicycles of every hue that are placed by multiple bike-sharing companies. However, the convenient mode of transportation are not spared from outrageous vandalism. ofo, the startup behind the yellow two-wheelers, pretty much faces the worst of its kind.

To find out the extent of bike vandalism, AllChinaTech visited one of its repair spots in a remote eastern Beijing area off the fourth ring road, and this is what we witnessed. Speechless.

Broken bikes are piled up in the “ofo bike graveyard.” (Photo by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech)
Broken bikes are piled up in the “ofo bike graveyard.” (Photo by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech)

Thousands of broken and vandalized bikes are brought here from nearby areas and piled up like this for repair. The “bike graveyard” leaves repairmen worn out from attempting to fix these vandalism masterpieces. This situation is similar in other cities with ofo bikes such as Kunming, Xiamen and Shenzhen, just to name a few.

Ma, who was hesitant to give out his first name, was one of the nine repairmen at the spot. The 38-year-old temporary worker picked up his screwdriver, a file and a set of tire patches in an attempt to make a broken bike move again.

Ma, a bike repairman, patches a tire at one of ofo’s repair spots in Beijing. (Photo by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech)
Ma, a bike repairman, patches a tire at one of ofo’s repair spots in Beijing. (Photo by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech)

“This is not so difficult,” said Ma, wiping his dripping sweat with a glove. “Most of the bikes I repair here are the ones with scraped QR codes and numbers. I have to replace the plate with new codes.”

By scratching off the QR codes on shared bikes, riders may be able to keep the bikes for themselves. This is probably why most bikes that are shipped here are those with destroyed code plates.

Ma, however, is not a professional bicycle repairman. He came to Beijing with his wife about half a year ago, leaving his three children behind in Anhui, a province that is about 900 kilometers away from Beijing. He first worked as a delivery man, but when he learned from a friend that ofo needs more people in its repair force, he immediately accepted the temporary job.

“It’s too dangerous to deliver food. I had a colleague who died on the spot in a car accident,” said Ma. “It’s much safer to repair bicycles here.”

However, broken bikes have kept repairmen being weighed down with work. Ma said that he has to repair about 25 to 28 bikes a day. With about nine repairmen on the spot, the result at the end of the day is dismal. The speed of the bikes being fixed is far slower than it being damaged.

The bike-sharing startup claimed to have connected more than 2.2 million bikes in 43 cities, and has launched bike rental services in the United States, Britain, and Singapore. In late March, ofo announced its best performance of more than 10 million daily rides. The company earlier raised USD 450 million in Series D financing in the same month.

Given that ofo shows no sign in slowing down its expansion plans, the company must act fast to tackle its bike quality and vandalism issues.

(All photos by Timmy Shen/AllChinaTech. All rights reserved.)

 

Why Airbnb’s new Chinese name is an epic fail

Airbnb now has a Chinese name, and everyone in China is mocking it.

The American room-rental startup last week revealed its new brand name to be used in China — a three-character moniker “Aibiying”. Each character individually translated means “love,” “mutual” and “welcome.”

Airbnb said in Chinese on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that the name means “let love meet each other.” The company further explained that more and more Chinese travelers are getting to know each other through Airbnb, and that the name represents their value and mission bringing together tens of millions of neighborhood communities around the world with love.

However, the company totally failed to impress Chinese people with this moniker. Rather, the Chinese name gave Chinese netizens some cheap entertainment, laughing at the expense of Airbnb.

Why? First, the pronunciation of this name is like some sort of difficult language test. Even for a native Chinese, this name is really hard to pronounce. There’s a high chance that Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky might have a hard time just spitting out the words.

Second, the name just sounds wrong in many ways. With the new moniker “Aibiying” quickly taking social media by storm, Airbnb has received an overwhelming amount of nasty comments.

Some said it’s corny; some said it sounds like a name for a sex toy shop, especially with the pink-colored background accompanying the logo. Some said that it sounds like a copycat porn company (because the second character “bi” sounds similar to a crude slang for female genitalia). Many said that the company should just drop the Chinese name altogether.

(Photo screenshot from Airbnb.com)
“Live like locals on your trip,” says Airbnb’s Chinese website. (Photo screenshot from Airbnb.com)

Airbnb’s rebranding with the name change is seemingly a bold move but, in fact, crucial. According to Fortune, localization will be the key for Airbnb to successfully penetrate the Chinese market. The company also showed its ambition by saying that this year it will increase its local workforce from 60 employees to 180 and double its investment in the market.

Something Airbnb should keep in mind, though, is the fierce competition in China. Tujia, China’s largest home-rental site, currently has over 400,000 properties available online and more than 800,000 properties in stock, while Airbnb, or “Aibiying,” only has a paltry 80,000 listings in China. In August 2015, Tujia secured USD 300 million in Series D financing, backed by All-Stars Investment, Ascott, and Ctrip.

Xiaozhu is another rival that Airbnb faces. Backed by the leading classified ad website 58.com and the search engine giant Baidu, Xiaozhu now has around ten million active users, enjoying resources of 100,000 property listings, covering 301 cities in China. In November 2016, Xiaozhu secured its Series C+ and Series D rounds of financing, totaling USD 65 million.

Airbnb apparently has a lot of catching up to do in China. Will Chinese people deal with the new, ugly-sounding name? In any case, renaming is just the first step for the American room-sharing startup to grow in the country. We’ll have to wait and see whether Airbnb can cut out a profitable niche from between its two major Chinese rivals.

Read also: More than Airbnb: How Tujia swallowed the largest home-rental market in China

(Top photo from Pixabay)

Photos: What does Tim Cook dig about China startups ofo and Keep

China’s emerging bike-sharing business sees millions of riders every day, and it is becoming hotter by the day. Leading bike-sharing player ofo on Tuesday welcomed Apple CEO Tim Cook to its office to try out its bicycles.

Tim Cook, who was in Beijing for the China Development Forum, posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter, an image of him learning how to use an ofo bike inside the Beijing-based startup’s headquarters on Tuesday. AllChinaTech compiled photos of Tim Cook’s visit to the offices of hot China startups ofo and Keep, apps that have caught on in the country.

Screenshot of Tim Cook’s Weibo
Screenshot of Tim Cook’s Weibo

Last May, Apple invested USD 1 billion in China’s largest ride hailing app Didi Chuxing, which is also ofo’s investor and strategic partner. Cook’s ofo visit aroused public interest on whether Apple will invest in ofo.

ofo founder Dai Wei guided Tim Cook around the startup’s office.

Photo from Weibo user Chen Xingrong
Photo from Weibo user Chen Xingrong

Tim Cook tried out the yellow ofo bike which looks too small for him though.

Photo from Weibo user IT Shijie Jingli
Photo from Weibo user IT Shijie Jingli

To conclude Cook’s visit at ofo, they took a photo.

Photo from Tim Cook’s Weibo
Photo from Tim Cook’s Weibo

Another startup that Cook toured is the office of China fitness app Keep. The app claims that it has been downloaded 80 million times. Keep founder Wang Ning explains the use of equipment to Cook in the startup’s headquarters in central Beijing.

Photo from Tim Cook’s Weibo
Photo from Tim Cook’s Weibo

Keep staff explaining their data collection to Cook on a Mac laptop.

Photo from Tim Cook’s Weibo
Photo from Tim Cook’s Weibo

Cook received a yoga mat as the app’s 80,000,001st user. Why is it coincidental that he happens to be the lucky one?

Still, Cook said that he wants to be the first person to get his hands on the Keep app after it launches an overseas version.

Photo from Keep
Photo from Keep

Celebrities have a new routine in the social media era – taking a selfie with a group of fans or people. Cook is no exception and took a group selfie with Keep staff.

Photo from tech media 36Kr.com
Photo from tech media 36Kr.com

The Cook craze did not end with his visit. A guy posted his selfie with Cook. Check it out.

Photo from Weibo user CrCrCrCrc

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

The smog refugees from China

The new year in Beijing was ushered in with heavy smog. You could blame the stubborn habit of Chinese burning firecrackers. But there’s more to it.

In the last five years, smog was a popular topic in China. Beijing had 129 “polluted” days and 39 “severely polluted” days in 2016, according to China Daily.

When you look around, you will notice our lives have changed because of the smog. New words about the smog came into being, and new business opportunities have been formed. Of course, it has even created a new living class— smog refugees.

Different people have different ways of dealing with the smog. The most common way is to buy face masks and air purifiers. These equipment sold so well that it created a new business model named the smog economy.

“It sounds so pathetic,“ said Wu Fei, a friend of mine. He is a 29-year-old programmer living in Beijing. He told me that he spent almost RMB 10,000 (USD 1,455) on anti-smog equipment last year. He bought two air purifiers. One is in the living room and the other is in the bedroom.

“I bought the best professional face masks I can find in the market. I really contributed a lot to the smog economy,” he said with a laugh.

IQAir
Photo credit: IQAir Youtube

That is not all. Some people chose to deal with it at a much higher cost. They are running away from the city, and even from this country. They have become smog refugees.

Some people have moved to Yunnan and Hainan, the southern provinces of China. These provinces are more eco-friendly, and surrounded by more nature without air pollution. However, these places are only suitable for young people. Due to the underdeveloped economy and poor education opportunities in these places, they are not ideal for families with children.

For these families, immigration seems to be a better choice.

Liu Xin, a 30-year-old Beijing native, never considered immigration before. But now she is for the sake of her children. She has two children – one a newborn and the other is aged two.

“I spent my entire Spring Festival holiday in hospital, ” she told me.

She said that both of her children have respiratory diseases. She suspected the illnesses were caused by the smog. She thinks the smog problem cannot be solved in such a short time. She has decided to work very hard with her husband for the next three years so that her family will look for an opportunity to immigrate.

“I have to move. I have no choice,” she said.

Lung cancer has become the number one cause of death in China, according to a report by the Oriental Outlook. Although there is no specific evidence related to the smog, the air certainly did nothing to help.

An immigration agency staff told me that since the United States has too many people on the waiting list, European countries such as Hungary are also good options for people thinking of migration.

Obviously, in order to become smog refugees, you will need to have some of these requirements: a stable economic foundation, being well educated and possessing professional skills to live in another country.

In my eyes, these people are from China’s middle class. They form the managements of companies, they are wealth creators as well as main consumers in the social economy. Losing these people is not a good thing for China.

In the long run, the middle class will devote themselves to the education of the next generation. China also risks losing these potential younger talents.

“I thought about immigration for many years,” Li Xiang told me. Li, a 35-year-old human resource manager in a Beijing company, is a mother of a 5-year-old boy.

“I was always hesitating. But now, the smog helped me with my decision,” she said.

Li’s son had been coughing a lot for no particular reason and he frequently felt short of breath.

“Even if I can live with the smog, I have to think for my son,” Li said.

Li said that she did not want her son to only see the blue sky through the television. On most days, he could not go outside and play.

“He is only five, he should be close to nature,” Li said.

At the end of last year, Li’s family moved to Canada. After they moved, she said her son never coughed again. Now, they can go to the park, sit on the grass and look at the blue sky.

greenpeace east asia youtube
Photo credit: Greenpeace East Asia Youtube

As for myself, I have considered the option of becoming a smog refugee and once discussed immigration with my husband.

“When we have enough money, how about moving to San Francisco? I have been there. It is an exquisite city,” I said.

“Hell no!” my husband answered.

“Why?”

“I cannot betray my Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James,” he replied.

Cleveland Cavaliers is a NBA team and their most important rival is the Warriors from San Francisco.

(Top photo from Pixabay.com)

The economy behind influencer brands in China

By Daniel Ma

Since the end of 2014, online influencers have become an important economic driver in Chinese society. These are the people who create their own fame online, or on social media: they build up a following, and then leverage their fame and influence into a fortune. Not only are individual people talking about it, but also all companies want to be part of it, no matter which industry they are focused on.

Once they have enough subscribers, the influencers creating their own unique brands is no doubt the most direct and profitable option for Chinese online stars to choose. This is distinct from the online influencer simply being paid to endorse a third party’s products.

The influence of influencers

Influencer brands are directly registered by the influencers themselves, who use their social power to sell products. The products will be designed or in some way branded by the influencers, and are then sold on online platforms like Taobao.

It looks boringly simple, right? Everyone can register a brand, in any country you like. But no one can sell millions of dollars worth of products with a name that has just been put to market. Those brands you are familiar with used decades build up their fame, before they started earning big money. Online influencer brands sidestep this problem: their name is already prominent on account of their social media activities.

Zhang Dayi, a former model who sold personalized fashion packages to hundreds of thousands of Chinese is one of the top influencers. She reportedly grabbed more than RMB 300 million (USD 46 million) in revenue through her brand in 2015. Aside from herself, there are about twenty top social media influencers in China; “top” usually is defined in this case as the ability to sell more than ten million RMB worth of product each month.

Why have influencer brands shown such an unbelievable performance? Are there some tricks that others don’t know? The answer is yes.

Sponsorship is a double-edged sword

If a social media personality promotes another company’s product on their page, everyone knows that they must get some benefit in return.

But people are not stupid: if they think a web celeb is introducing too many sponsored products to them, they feel insulted, and leave bad comments under those posts.

Introducing an influencer’s own brand to subscribers is different. Usually they just need be honest, and tell their fans why they want to do it. If they treat it seriously, their subscribers will show their support, and even their congratulations.

Influencer brands and celebrity brands are not the same thing

Some people would be wondering: is it the case that with enough followers, everyone can launch their own brand and make huge money? Some celebrities have more than ten million followers on social media, will they succeed if they start to sell products?

These questions lead us to thoughts on a deeper level: why do people want to subscribe to someone on social media, and make purchases under their advice?

Only if people really enjoy the content that the influencer produces, including how she dresses, how she does makeup, where she goes, and so on, will the influencer brand be successful. If they enjoy the content, online fans will think, “This is the life that I want! If I follow what she does, I can also have that life.”

Not everyone dreams to become a celebrity, it is an idea too far removed from normal life. But these online social influencers, the online stars, are just normal people. Many of them are in their twenties, or even still at university. This makes young spenders in particular feel close.

Listening to their audience and letting them feel close to the brand: that may be the key reason why influencer brands are so successful.

(Top photo: Zhang Dayi. From Baidu Images)

Why I ditched China’s No. 1 fitness app “Keep” and went back to the gym

I am a 28 year-old girl living in Beijing. I have been exercising for about four years. In the beginning, I did not exercise to be fit. Back then, I just became a journalist and had flexible working hours. I thought I should increase my self-discipline, scheduling my time better. Isn’t it a great idea to exercise regularly?

After making this decision, I bought an elliptical machine in order to do aerobic exercises at home. I also did some yoga by watching videos. Though it was boring and hard, I stuck with it. I did not follow it everyday, but I did enough to make myself proud. Then, I wanted to do more. Maybe I could achieve having a good figure.

I began to speak with my friends about exercising, trying to figure out efficient ways. Then in 2015, it seems like everyone around me were talking about “Keep”, a popular fitness App. It attracted more than USD 32 million in investment in May, with about 30 million users across China.

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Most of my friends were posting pictures on Wechat, China’s equivalent of Facebook. These pictures were accompanied with the claim that “I completed my exercise today at Keep”.

“Oh my gosh, this is so trendy,” I thought.

Living in a social network driven world, we constantly share our lives online. Having dinner with a friend? Post! Travelling with family? Post! We constantly check our Wechat accounts every few minutes. However, I decided to exercise without publicizing it online. I set my own goals and stuck to it until it was completed. I did not want to show it off online just to get “likes” from friends. I did it only for myself. To be honest, I do not think showing off will be of any help. Maybe a week later, they will totally forget about maintaining the fitness plan.

So I decided to use the Keep app without posting my pictures. In the beginning, it was all right. I picked some routines and followed it everyday. However, with the app upgrade, it became more and more complicated. I had to make choices all the time. What is your purpose? Losing weight? Getting good? Increasing muscle mass? There were lots of different courses for different purposes. I truly did not know what to choose.

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I browsed through all the courses trying to understand the differences. I opened every course to see what it was like. It drove me crazy. This process took almost an hour.

After that, I saw that my friends started “following” me on the app. Out of curiosity, I checked to see which exercises they picked. And with that, another hour went by.

I spent so much time on these rather than exercising. The point was, I still didn’t know which exercise fit me best. Moreover, “Keep” was not able to tell me either, and I was still left to CHOOSE.

After repeating exercises on “Keep”, the courses became much easier. However, I did not feel that my fitness has made any improvement. Finally, I decided to look for a gym. At least there will be a coach who could correct my movement.

In Beijing, there are many gyms. Unfortunately, not many gyms have ethical practices. They only want you to purchase more and more courses. Luckily for me, I found a gym where the founder graduated from the top athletes program in the country. He is also the counselor of Beijing boxing team. Technically speaking, it is not a gym. It is a physical fitness training center.

The trainer evaluated my body, and he told me which was my weakest part, and advised me what I should do to improve it. Finally, I figured out the differences in losing weight, getting good shape and increasing muscles.

Of course, there are routines in the gym that the Keep app has. However, I only knew the exact positions for these exercises while I was training in the gym. No wonder I did these exercises with ease while using “Keep”.

“I witnessed people getting hurt using “Keep”. They know how to do it, but they may not be doing it correctly,” my trainer said.

I am so satisfied with the result now that I decided to share my story.

But I am still reserved about taking selfies. Take a selfie in my gym to post on Weibo?

Hell no. After all those intensive exercises, the only thing I want to do after that is to lie in bed.

(All Photos from Keep)