- Is the world’s most populous country with 1,393,783,836 citizens representing almost 20 percent of the world’s population (Worldometers.com, 2015)
- Has 914 million total telephone users (Export.gov, 2015)
- Is the world’s largest mobile phone market with 500+ million subscribers (Export.gov, 2015) and the majority of mobile phones are smartphones (Alba, 2015)
- Surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s largest smartphone market in 2011 (Alba, 2015)
- Has 210 million Internet users including 163 million broadband customers (Export.gov, 2015)
Prolific Cell And Smartphones
According to the Pew Research Center (2014), based on its Spring 2013 Global Attitudes survey, 95 percent of the Chinese population owns a cell phone, 37 percent of cell phones are smartphones, and 55 percent of people use the Internet occasionally or own a smartphone. This data puts China at the top of the list of countries regarding cell and smartphone ownership, as well as Internet access.
During my travels in mainland China I’ve observed lots of cell and smartphone usage. As one might expect, this technology seems to be most heavily used by younger and urban populations, but it is prevalent everywhere.
Chinese And U.S. Use Differ
Smartphone use in China appears to be different than in the U.S. because of government censorship and restricted access to social media platforms (Council on Foreign Relations, 2015). Instead of spending time engaging with social media as many Americans do, Chinese smartphone users most heavily use apps for arcade games, entertainment, racing, casual, and media/video, according to a 2014 report from AppFlood, a mobile advertising network (Hong, 2014).
Another study, conducted in 2013 by the consulting company Accenture, reported that smartphones in China were most often used to listen to music, followed by playing games (Denyer & Yanglingling, 2015).
Whenever I had the opportunity to look over someone’s shoulder — usually at an airport or waiting to cross the street — to observe what they were viewing or doing on their phone, I saw people engaging with games or looking at photos. Lots of photos! In fact, it seemed to be an obsession.
Chinese smartphone and Internet usage patterns suggest that social media platforms are not a strong medium for organizations trying to reach target audiences. Marketing professionals may have to rely more heavily on advertising to deliver and control their messages than do their counterparts in non-communist countries. In addition, new Chinese communication laws — designed to safeguard citizens from deceptive promotions going into effect in two months — will drive communication specialists to very carefully plan tactics and produce content (Myers, 2015). They will need to avoid producing promotional content positioned as editorial copy or conducting “Black PR” which includes criticism of others on social media sites.
According to New York University Professor Don Bates, “Before long, I’m sure the Chinese government will refine this and related issues, but in the meantime PR and marketing professionals who do business in China, or handle PR and marketing for companies that do business there, need to pay much greater attention to how they communicate.”
Alba, D. (2015, May 11). China’s massive smartphone market is finally slowing down. Wired.com. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2015/05/china-smartphone-market-slowdown/
Bates, D. (2015, June 25) China’s new communication laws present challenges for PR and marketing agencies worldwide. Retrieved from Gould + Partners email.
Council on Foreign Relations. (2015). Media censorship in China. Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/china/media-censorship-china/p11515
Denyer, S. & Yanglingling, X. (2015, May 6). In China, smartphones are wrecking marriages and dividing family. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/05/06/smartphone-use-ruining-china-marriages-and-driving-families-apart/
Export.gov. (2015). China information and communication technologies. Retrieved from http://export.gov/China/doingbizinchina/industryinfo/ict/index.asp
Hong, K. (2014, Feb. 18). A new report sheds light on how the Chinese use their smartphones during Lunar New Year season. The Next Wave. Retrieved from http://thenextweb.com/asia/2014/02/18/a-new-report-sheds-light-on-how-the-chinese-use-their-smartphones-during-lunar-new-year-season/
Myers, C. (2015). China’s new communication laws: Three things PR practitioners need to know. Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved from http://www.instituteforpr.org/chinas-new-communication-laws-three-things-pr-practitioners-need-know/?utm_source=Three+Things+Practitioners+Need+to+Know+about+China%27s+New+Communication+Laws&utm_campaign=Three+Things+Practitioners+Need+to+Know+about+China%27s+New+Communication+Laws&utm_medium=email
Pew Research Center. (2014) Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology. Retrieved from http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/02/13/emerging-nations-embrace-internet-mobile-technology/
Worldometers.com. (2015). Population of China. Retrieved from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/