The Economist magazine of 6 August 2016 featured a cover story on China’s ‘tech giants’. Most prominent are the three internet companies whose first letters are to be found in the so called “BAT” trilogy: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Each of these dominates a category of internet-based services in China in ways somewhat similar to the dominance of giant US tech firms outside of China: Baidu can be seen as China’s Google for search; EBay was the precursor of Alibaba as an e-commerce platform, and Tencent dominates social networking as Facebook does in many other countries. However, as the Economist points out, drawing the comparison may understate the degree of ingenuity and innovation which the Chinese companies have shown to this point. In particular, the Chinese companies have grown up in the era of mobile internet so have optimized their technology for the smart phone platform which most Chinese now own.
By David Porteous