Friday, November 30

Being Left Behind: The U.S. Online

The United States may have created the Internet but Chinese youth are catching up and will outpace American youth online, according to a study released by the IAC, which is an interactive conglomerate operating more than 60 diversified brands in sectors being transformed by the Internet, and JWT, the largest advertising agency brand in the United States and the fourth-largest full-service network in the world.

Currently, China’s online population, at an estimated 137 million, is now second only to the United States, estimated to be between 165 and 201 million, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project. But it is attitude more than the numbers that distinguishes American and Chinese youth, with the latter being more expressive online.

While a large majority of youth in both countries feel dependent on digital technology, the attitude is especially pronounced in China. As many as 80 percent of Chinese respondents agreed that "Digital technology is an essential part of how I live" compared with 68 percent of Americans.

"The Chinese people seem to be way ahead of Americans in living a digital life," noted IAC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller today in Beijing, where he spoke to more than 350 Chinese students at Peking University. "More activity online means a more connected and a more evolved workforce - just what China needs as it makes its move from being the workshop of the world, to a developed economy in its own right."

"Like many other areas in comparing Americans to the energy and progress elsewhere in the world, China's speedy evolution in its use of the Internet is fast eclipsing that of the US. I think this is great for China, not so great for us," he added.

One of the most striking differences was that fewer than half of Americans (43 percent) agreed that "I often use the Internet to find the opinions of others or to share my opinions." By contrast, China's culture and political environment place less emphasis on personal views and almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Chinese respondents said they go online to share opinions.

The study pinpointed one difference as to how Chinese view anonymity online. Chinese respondents were almost twice as likely as Americans to agree that it's good to be able to express honest opinions anonymously online (79 percent vs. 42 percent) and to agree that online they are free to do and say things they would not do or say offline (73 percent vs. 32 percent).

What’s interesting to note about this is as Americans grapple with and abuse anonymity while preaching transparency and content controls, these issues may not be a global view nor even the view of the Internet’s majority in a few short years. As one pointed YouTube video reminds us, things change.



Rich on 11/30/07, 5:02 PM said...

More words:

• the average Chinese user spends an estimated 16 to 18 hours per week online. Compare that to the average US user who clocks maybe 12 hours.
• Internet penetration in China is far less mature than in the US.
• Online advertising in China is a nascent industry.

source: Silicon Alley Insider

Unknown on 11/30/07, 8:20 PM said...

And yet China banned WordPress.
Read here.
Just hover around, you'll find links to Matt Mullenweg's article.

Should we refer to the domination by quality or quantity?
If it's quantity, China may have outnumbered the Americans, but in terms of quality, I don't think they've achieved as much as the Americans and Europeans have on internet technology, free speech, even global politics. In my own viewpoint --I could be wrong, the Chinese are more exclusive to their own social media circle, and not always internationally engaged when online.

Two cents.

Rich on 11/30/07, 10:47 PM said...

Thanks Ichaduma,

Glad to see one of my primary concepts — blogging is an activity as opposed to a profession — is elsewhere on the net. And that bloggers can be journalists just as journalists are sometimes bloggers (as they are teachers, scientists, professionals, etc. and the activity does not preclude their professions nor diminish the value of the personal blog). It's a great link; useful for what I'm working on for Monday.

Still, for me, I think the global question is less about what is and more to do about what may be. It seems to me that the United States may be at risk of falling behind other countries unless we remain vigilant in our value of education and information.

While China may have banned Wordpress, there are other platforms. And, China is not alone; India has some amazing IT development as well.

As I mentioned on Valeria Maltoni's Conversationagent blog today ... I was listening to a panel discussion on my way to a meeting where Thomas Friedman reminded the attendees of a pointed comment in his book made by Bill Gates. Gates surmised that it used to be it was better to be a B student in Berkley than a genius in Beijing. That world is behind us.

Things are changing, but this observation is not meant as a statement that the U.S. and western Europe is slipping, but rather a suggestion that maybe there is more work that needs to be done in order to remain on the cutting edge if that is what we want.

Thank you for the valued two cents; more than that even.


MS on 12/1/07, 8:52 AM said...

To what do your sources attribute the difference in attitude among Chinese youth?

Also, how broad a slice of China did they have access to? Perhaps only that part that is already wired?

Rich on 12/1/07, 9:51 AM said...

Good questions Mark,

IAC and JWT do point out that the youth surveyed in China can be classified as elite or honors students. However, we have to take in account that honors students in some countries outnumber all of our students combined.

In terms of being wired with broadband access, the U.S. ranks around 15th or 20th (depending on what study you read), which is down from 6th in 2004. Congress has known about this for some time.

Here is one report:

Here is a recent article:

In terms of a percentage of population with access to the Internet, you are correct that China's population has less access than other countries. However, these percentages change very fast. Malaysia, for example, moved from 20 percent to 48 percent of their citizens having access in two years. India is making dramatic gains as well.

Again, this isn't a fatalistic view as much as it is consideration that we might need to change our world view and how we view the Internet.


MS on 12/1/07, 10:27 AM said...

Oookaay. So this is about industrial policy in the U.S. too. It is interesting to speculate on how far the invisible hand can take us in this game. And are the interests of multinational communications corporations who lobby Congress the same as the interests of the country? But even thinking along these lines can result in political suicide.

Getting back to your post, the advancement of China and India also just underlines Africa's unenviable position. Put differently, we're dealing with new great powers here, but not in a broader spread of prosperity. Too bad. Of course, that could bring us back to Congress, but I'll spare you that.

Rich on 12/1/07, 11:29 AM said...


I think it crosses several public-private sector issues for our country, yes, and not necessarily just in the interest of private sector multinational corporations. Globalization is changing the world, but sometimes I think we close our eyes to it.

Absolutely we are dealing with the development of new great powers in the world, but perhaps not in the broader spread of prosperity as we define it, which is too bad.

Feel free to bring it back to Congress. It could be argued that politics has changed from sense of purpose to popularity.



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