China Internet thoughts

Things are too chaotic on the morning of day two to compose a reasoned essay on what the situation is regarding computing, Internet, mobile telephony, and branding opportunities in China. and I need to get outside and explore more on one of my precious days off in the country before a week of meetings.
So here’s a random list:

  • Right off the bat I saw a Yahoo ad on a bus. I love bus ads. CNET used them to great effect in Manhattan in the mid-90s. Yahoo was the only U.S. internet brand to make an impression yesterday and this one was sighted outside of the northern entrance to the Forbidden City.
  • Internet access in the two hotels I’ve visited is hardwired and fairly fast. I moved a ton of images up to Flickr without any problem. I’ve been googling with no hiccups and have seen no examples of censorship. There may be different “zones” for hotel access, but I can’t say I have seen any blocked messages or sites.Wikipedia is not loading, but running a politically sensitive search on Google permitted click throughs to sites critical of the government. I have not looked for any porn or other objectionable content. In no way have I felt that any online activities are being delayed, blocked or impeded in the four hours I’ve spent online.
  • There aren’t a lot of American brands in evidence. Microsoft has a large office building with their logo on it. But it seems to be European brands such as Lufthansa, Nestle, Volkswagen, Audi, and Mercedes in the highest abundance. This history plaque in the Forbidden City was sponsored by American Express. And on every plaque carrying this, there appeared to be smears of mud or clay where someone tried to obscure the tagline.
  • I have seen no Internet cafes yet.
  • Wireless phones tend to be either local brands, Nokia, or Motorolas. People use them incessantly. My step-sister, who is a film executive, has one glued to her head at all times. No one appears to be using them for email (I have not seen a Blackberry in use) and I don’t see many people texting SMS nor any advertising calls to action that use SMS codes.
  • I saw the word “Mashup” on a poster at this Beijing art gallery. The art here is amazing and the gallery district in a former factory in the 7-9-8 district is right out of San Francisco’s SOMA.
  • Blogging is big. I am going to meet some bloggers later this week, but I understand from my step-sister that a lot of business people blog here in Beijing. My China blogroll only now holds:
  • Virtual China: “Virtual China is an exploration of virtual experiences and environments in and about China. The topic is also the primary research area for the Institute for the Future’s Asia Focus Program in 2006. IFTF is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 35 years of forecasting experience based in Palo Alto, CA.”
  • ChinaTechStory: which isn’t working at the time of this post.
  • a good frequent news feed.
  • There is a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. Of course. The other big American brand is, of course, McDonald’s. While eating gyoza in an awesome little cafe, the family at the table next to us was tucking into a great meal while Junior ate a Big Mac and fried from the Golden Arches. The world isn’t flat, but it sure will be fat.
  • Chinese “OOH” — Marketing lingo for Out Of Home — billboards to you and me, is big. Like really big. The stuff is huge. It screams. We whisper. I’ll get some pictures of how we advertise Lenovo here. I got tons of Lenovo impressions yesterday. Big billboards at a convention/tech center and those mechanical rolling ads. All such brands are in English and Chinese.
  • The entire city is under construction. The locals blame a lot of the dust and air quality problems on construction. Apparently a construction moratorium is going into effect along with a coal ban inside of the third ring road to try to clean things up in time for the Olympics. Tons of Olympic branding everywhere and a big countdown clock of the days remaining before they open in ’08 at Tianamen Square.
  • That’s all for now. Time to lace on the hiking shoes and start exploring after a congee breakfast.
  • The Bride Wore Blue jeans

    Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

    Walking over a bridge in Houhai, I decided to snap a picture of some long-pole anglers when this bridal party swept into view.

    Great day of walking from Tianamen through the Forbidden City, around the shores of Beihai Lake, and all the time eating, eating, eating.

    Photostream on Flickr