How will the rapid growth of Internet users in China effect online marketing for US-based companies?
I recently read a statistic in The Economist from the Chinese government for 2007 that I found to be quite astonishing: the number of Internet users in China has reached 210 million, up more than 50% from 2006 (more than three times the number in India). What’s more, Morgan Stanley predicts China will surpass the US total within months.
On a visit to China in August 2007, I was fascinated to hear various college-aged, American, Canadian and Chinese students discuss their use of the Internet and their frustration with certain sites simply “disappearing.” Censorship by the Chinese government is certainly a very controversial topic and it shapes the way the most populated country in the world is using the Internet. This is also the case because the Internet is used so commonly as a social networking forum for China’s youth.
Although only about 16% of China’s population is using the Internet, the fact that such an overwhelming majority of these users are under the age of 30 (more than 70%) should indicate that we are only on the cusp of monumental growth of Internet users in China. Already, China boasts more mobile-phone subscribers than the US, Japan, Germany and Britain combined and mobile messaging and streaming advertisements are already extremely prevalent there.
When will US-based companies start to seriously shift or dedicate large portions of B2B online marketing budgets to China? Will the attention from the 2008 Olympic summer games expedite the process of foreign influence and business in China?
Certainly US-based consumer brands have gained healthy traction in China, but with the difficult restrictions put on foreign companies by the Chinese government including foreign investment and license and permit requirements, “capitalizing” on this emerging market has already proven difficult. However, considering the technology focus in China coupled with its maturing market, it seems like only a matter of time before Internet users in China demand more from the world and their own government in the form of an all-encompassing Internet environment.
What are your thoughts on this?