How China could shape the future of technology



One of the world’s fastest-growing apps, TikTok could usher in an era where Asia – not Silicon Valley – leads the tech industry. That change could be transformative.

For more than 30 years, a small parcel of land covering about 45 square miles (116sqkm) has had an outsized impact on the way we work, live and play.

California’s Silicon Valley shapes our lives. From the websites where we do our household shopping to the video-streaming services we watch to the companies which provide our email, almost all are based in this corner of the United States.

Until recently, that is. The rise of TikTok, an app whose parent company is the Chinese firm ByteDance, has struck at the heart of Silicon Valley’s supremacy. Along with other digital products coming out of China, TikTok has the potential to reshape the future of technology – a future in which the culture, and the interests, of Shanghai or Beijing could mould the industry more than that of San Francisco Bay.

It’s hard to overstate just how much of a switch this is.

“The narrative previously was about China coming up with its own versions of [Western] digital products,” says Elaine Jing Zhao, senior lecturer in the school of the arts and media at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

“Nowadays, you see the narrative shift towards how Western social media platforms are learning from Chinese social media platforms.”

And Chinese apps, platforms and services currently look quite different from those in the West.

The rise of Chinese tech

The most famous, of course, is TikTok – which has 690 million monthly active users worldwide, 100 million of whom are in the United States and a further 100 million in Europe.

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