Mobile Phones in China

When you live in China it shouldn’t take you long to notice that people absolutely love their mobile phones here. Chinese people use every possible moment to watch a few minutes of their favorite TV-show, check when a Taobao package will arrive, or refresh their WeChat moments.

There’s a dark side to this – I would say. I’ve seen many couples out for dinner doing nothing but looking at their own phone and mindlessly moving food to their face. It’s happened more than once that I wanted to buy something, but the attendant was too busy watching a TV show to care. At many subway stations the government has posted signs saying ‘Don’t look at your phone when getting on and off the escalator’…probably for good reason.

Meanwhile, during Black Friday in the USA people are lining up in the blistering cold waiting for physical stores to open.

Enough complaining though, because there are some truly cool things about this phenomenon too. Generally speaking, Chinese people are way more progressive about all things technical. For one, there’s an active ‘amateur’ writing scene on the Chinese internet. Many writers sell their creative writing through special platforms, and on WeChat’s public accounts a non-fiction-slash-public-journalism scene is growing fast.

This week’s ‘double 11 festival’ will be an orgy of online shopping. Last year a whopping 57 billion RMBs worth of discounted things were sold through Alibaba’s online platforms, and there’s every reason to suspect the figure will be even higher this year. Meanwhile, during Black Friday in the USA people are lining up in the blistering cold waiting for physical stores to open. Peasants.

Last month I finally got around to changing my bank account so I could use Alipay and WeChat Wallet. Ever since, I’ve been buying all kinds of stuff with just my phone. It’s great. I can top up my phone’s credit, buy train tickets, and buy all kinds of stuff online and have it delivered. The best thing is that now, when I take a break from work to go down to the Family Mart for a snack. I don’t even have to bring my wallet.

China is known to copy a lot from the West, but I feel like it won’t be long before the West looks to China on how to make the best of our mobile phones.


Kevin writes columns for the GoEast Blog on studying Chinese, Chinese culture, and life as a foreign student. He has studied China and Chinese for over five years, first in his home country the Netherlands, then in Beijing, and now attends Fudan University's Chinese Society department.