What I learned about China in my geography classes at school and at university, is that is is a “developing country”. It means that after the most common western scheme of development, China is located between the so-called “underdeveloped countries” and the “developed” or “industrial countries”. So far, I have only been in Shenzhen, but no other place in China. It is a special economic zone among the top mainland cities in economic growth in China and has a population of about 12 million people. And the Chinese integration in the globalized and developed world has been taking place in the course of its urbanization. Also, people are talking about an “Americanization” in China. The latter is sometimes obvious, looking at the shopping malls and fast food restaurants and cafés. But when it comes to technology here in Shenzhen, it is way more developed than any other country, including the US. It seems that every part of the life of Chinese people in the city has been digitalized. Everything seems possible with a QR code. And most importantly, every transaction can be made with your smartphone: the cab, when in the grocery store, when shopping, taking the subway, buying a snack at a machine or a kiosk, when paying in a restaurant or when online shopping. It is impressive, and easy! – And I thought life was easy and convenient in the US – in China’s cities, it seems even more convenient. I was told that this digitalization developed in the past four years.

Let me give you a few short examples I find especially innovative and useful:

WeChat from Tencent:

  • There is WeChat pay that allows you to do transactions such as those lifted above;
  • there are these red envelopes, as a game, which you can let others open and receive some yuan;
  • you can use it for blogging or just uploading news, e.g. about your organization (the NGO I work with here uses it as a website tool), it has many creative and customizing functions;
  • you can let participants register for workshops or other events (this one, the NGO uses as well for their events);
  • it can also be used like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

Taobao from Alibaba Group

  • is a collection of most of the online stores;
  • even regional food that is traditionally eaten in certain cities or regions can be bought online

Aliwangwang also from Alibaba Group

  • is an application that can be used for the communication between seller and buyer on Taobao
  • this is so useful when you want to get more precise information e.g. on the product you’re interested in

And there is certainly more for me to discover. And this economic branch really is more developed in China than in any other western country. And I think, not only the technologies themselves are developing very fast, but also the digitalization effectively can help other economic branches develop at a high speed. Because once digitalized, processes can be finished and progress can be made so much faster. Also, it affects every part of life. And of course it can also help preserve the old as for example cultural heritage, since what is on people’s smartphone enters their minds – which is because they have it permanently in their hands and in their field of view.

And in the meantime in Germany, we still show the “Tagesschau 20 years ago” on its webpage and some of us even refuse to buy a smartphone (just as me a half a year ago)…