Editor’s note: China is on holiday for the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, from Jan. 21 to Jan. 27. For the week, TechNode has prepared three yearly summary reports. They include a list of the most-read articles, an in-depth feature on the rising Chinese EV sector, and an analysis of the growth of China’s overseas shopping apps.
In 2022, many Chinese tech companies struggled to keep growing amid slowing demand, drastic Covid control policy changes, and heightened geopolitical tensions.
TechNode looked back on articles published in this tumultuous time and saw readers gravitate toward several topics: new Chinese consumer tech products, the rise of Douyin and Shein in e-commerce, the US’s chip sanctions on the entire Chinese semiconductor sector, and key moves from China’s tech giants.
Below are the 10 articles read the most by TechNode readers in 2022:
A Chinese-language guide on GitHub entitled “HowToLiveLonger” was trending within the Chinese tech community in late April. Despite its serious and scientific tone, the new “guide” appeared to be a pointed joke, taking aim at ongoing overwork practices in China’s tech industry and their impact on employees’ mental and physical well-being. Its popular reception in Chinese tech circles reflected the community’s mood.
Chinese tech unicorn ByteDance acquired cinema ticketing platform Yingtuobang and online comics service Yizhikan Comics to further ramp up its push into the entertainment market, Chinese media outlet Tech Planet reported in mid-January.
With the new acquisitions, the Beijing-based TikTok developer further expanded the reach of its entertainment empire, which already consisted of short video apps, short- and long-form video platforms, news aggregation services, online novels, gaming, music streaming, idol management, and virtual idols.
Chinese tech giant Tencent reportedly planned to lay off around 20% of its staff in mid-March, joining a lengthy list of tech firms trimming their workforces since 2021.
Deep-pocketed tech titans such as Tencent and Alibaba, which are generally less vulnerable to small market fluctuations, have largely maintained their headcount until recently. The two giants have not been immune to China’s ongoing economic downturn, regulatory curbs, and international trade tensions.
In China, the NFT digital art market is bustling with new players and projects. That may come as a surprise for people familiar with China’s strict approach to cryptocurrency, with the country having fully banned crypto trading and mining in 2021. However, China has also embraced controlled versions of blockchain technology, such as the digital yuan, encouraging its growth in various sectors. So far, China has allowed NFTs but banned people from speculating and trading them.
NFTs are viewed more as a derivative of blockchain technology rather than a tradable asset in China. Tech majors such as Alibaba, Tencent, and JD have built their own platforms where users can buy and collect NFTs but are prohibited from trading or reselling their purchases. Most Chinese tech giants don’t even use the term NFT, hoping to stay on regulators’ good side and avoid association with the global crypto market. Instead, they use the term “digital collectible.”
In early October, the US announced a new set of semiconductor export restrictions aimed at cutting China off from accessing certain high-end chips and further limiting the country’s ability to make advanced chips themselves.
The US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued nine new rules, imposing export controls on advanced chips, transactions for supercomputer centers, and transactions involving certain entities on the Entity List. The rules also imposed new controls on certain semiconductor manufacturing equipment and on transactions for certain integrated circuit end uses.
After the US issued one of the broadest export controls on semiconductor technology to China in a decade in October, China’s semiconductor industry saw its market value tumble. At least 13 China-listed semiconductor firms saw their market value decline more than 10% in less than a week, and five saw a more than 20% decline.
Issued by the US commerce department, the comprehensive restriction bars companies from shipping advanced chips and chipmaking tools to China unless they obtain a special license. More specifically, the restrictions aim to cut off China’s access to and ability to make advanced chips under 16nm or 14nm, DRAM memory chips of 18nm or more advanced, and NAND flash memory chips of 128 layers or more. These technologies are essential to supercomputing and artificial intelligence.
Chinese phone maker Oppo released its new generation of smartwatches, the Watch 3 series, in August with a price tag of RMB 1,599 – RMB 2,099 ($228 – $300). The company first entered the watch market in 2020, updating its range annually since then.
The latest series has a new look and offers more premium features such as long battery life, and an always-on feature supported by a LTPO OLED display.
The version TechNode tested, the Watch 3 Pro, is currently only available in mainland China and Oppo has yet to reveal any plans regarding overseas markets, but there is an expectation that it will eventually be sold internationally.
Xiaomi launched the 12S Pro in China in early July. The phone is the mid-range offering in Xiaomi’s new 12S lineup (including the 12S, 12S Pro, and 12S Ultra), which updates annually and targets a broad range of mid-end to high-end users. The series is also the first set of Xiaomi phones to use Leica lenses. TechNode got a hold of the 12S Pro and spent a week using and testing it.
The phone is a solid choice as a primary daily device. The Leica-branded cameras can lure photography lovers, and the 12S Pro’s specs offer a quality entertainment experience. We would also recommend it to avid gamers and video watchers.
TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin announced in late May that its online sales had more than tripled for the year ending in April 2022, an impressive growth rate for the e-commerce up-and-comer when other majors were slowing down due to an economic downturn in China.
Chinese short-video platforms such as ByteDance-backed Douyin and Kuaishou are quickly eating into the market shares of e-commerce giants such as Alibaba, JD, and Pinduoduo, thanks to their widely popular social content.
Shein was among hundreds of thousands of Chinese startups that tapped into the country’s emerging cross-border e-commerce industry when it was founded in 2008 in the eastern city of Nanjing.
More than a decade later, it’s a Chinese fast fashion decacorn (a private technology company worth more than $10 billion) with a market cap of $100 billion. Only three other tech juggernauts — ByteDance, Alibaba’s Ant Group, and SpaceX — have surpassed that benchmark, according to Crunchbase’s private unicorn list.
Shein is a much lesser-known name than its local peers, such as Alibaba and JD. Its relative anonymity is largely due to its unusually low profile, typified by the lack of public information on its mysterious founder Xu Yangtian, also known as Chris Xu. However, Shein is a name that is increasingly difficult to ignore, as its extraordinary growth has people comparing it with big-name rivals like Amazon and Zara.