The coronavirus is changing China. This will affect us all, in society and in business. Here's what I've seen as an influencer in the Chinese social platforms WeChat (25k connections), and Douyin (28k connections).
In one of the most social and sentimental societies in the world, families are being forced apart, and spending what is normally the most joyful time of year inside, often facing fear or boredom.
Our China advisor Stewart Hansen will have more to say about this, from his on-the-ground perspective. Meanwhile, here's what we've been observing, with an eye on the business impacts.
Necessity The Mother of Invention
Here are some examples of how businesses in China are accelerating their innovation, with necessity being the mother of invention:
JD.com’s unmanned vehicle delivered medical supplies to Wuhan Ninth Hospital from its Renhe delivery station 600 meters away.
This is the first unmanned delivery of medical supplies, and Technode predicts that "unmanned driving technologies applications in food delivery and street sweeping may surge as human-to-human contact is discouraged across the country to reduce the risk of infection."
ROBOTS AND DRONES
Further South, in Guangdong province, hospitals are using robots to deliver medicine, meals, quilts and clothes, according to ITV.
In other parts of China drones are being used to spray disinfectant, to speak to residents, and even to deliver masks, as you can see in this video from Douyin (the Tiktok of China):
The drone asks the woman in the video what she is doing without a mask, then delivers a mask for her. How's that for public service!
Western media paints this use of technology as "big brother" and fails to see the context. In China, it's very normal to see and hear public service messages from every available channel. When the streets are deserted, it only makes sense to take to the skies.
We get a bit of meta-commentary in this Shanghaiist piece, which explains the reaction of Twitter users to videos like the one above. Amidst the fear of Western commentators, podcast host Carol Yin explains that some videos are done by social media influencers, and others are done by traffic police (much different from the heavily armed police US viewers are used to!).
Voluntary quarantine is keeping people away from restaurants, but people still need to eat. China's food delivery infrastructure has been respondent to
Transparency leads to trust. This image, shared in the China Digital Collective WeChat group, shows memos added to food deliver orders, showing the temperature of the chef, waiter and delivery person, in order to reassure customers their food is safe.
China has been a low-trust society. Public demand for transparency, and the technological ability to deliver it, may change that.
The tools for remote collaboration have been around for a long time. Alibaba's team even used them during the SARs outbreak of 2003!
(Source: Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built)
While remote collaboration has been possible for many years, China has - until now - relied on a very social work culture, due in part to the strong emphasis on implicit communication.
However two things might permanently change this: a generation raised on WeChat (and before that, QQ), and the enforced solitude of the coronavirus.
PS: RCN was born digital and operates exclusively by remote collaboration. Click here if you'd like your team to do the same.
CHINA IS CHANGING
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