WeChat, Chinaplas and all the rest...

Since I last wrote about WeChat a few years back, the platform has moved on in strides and encompasses all aspects of life and work in China today. WeChat is the norm for messaging, voice calls, sharing videos/images; it is used to hail taxis; book food, and make payments from high street stores, person to person transfers, and paying street vendors. Cash is no longer king here. I have heard rumours of street beggars handing over QR codes to receive money by WeChat. It is becoming hard to image back life without WeChat in China.

Underlying this is an even greater digital acceleration in China at the crux of which is the holy triumvirate of BAT – Baidu, Ali Baba and Tencent (owner of WeChat ) – the Google, Facebook and Amazon of China. The depth of consumer data these three triangulate is simply astounding, and will drive new ideas and innovation for years to come, setting the pace and standard for the rest of the world.

Chinaplas 2018 and its move to the new National Exhibition and Convention Centre (NECC)  in Hongqiao , Shanghai did not disappoint. Claiming record attendances - over 180,000 visitors, 16% up on last year’s show in Guangzhou – the event was buoyant, busy and boisterous as ever. The venue, highly impressive in scale, appeared to lend a sense of calmness during build-up and the show itself. The only drawback was the commute to and from the venue, taking up to 2 hours by car for some, despite a relatively short distance. Our decision to opt for the subway on Day 2 of show proved no less swift at just under two hours thanks to the massive crowds and technical issues on the line! Digital again ruled at this year’s show -gone were the 3D car models so prevalent at previous shows, now replaced by AR (augmented reality) displays.

And as if one mega event were not enough, running simultaneously the same week was the Beijing Automotive Show where two of our teams were despatched after finishing Chinaplas duties to help with media briefings for clients Hella, Borg Warner and PPG in the automotive supply sector. The show was fascinating, 174 new EV (electric vehicles) were launched, 124 of which were developed locally in China. And everyone talks about the pace of development now in China, alongside the almost gung-ho willingness and ability to trial new things from technology to marketing and selling, all reinforcing China’s growing role at the centre of EV and AI transportation and all things digital - just check out the car vending machine launched in Guangzhou by Ford and Alibaba.

And then there is Didi, China’s Uber, in which the BAT trinity are investors (well actually it ousted Uber from China by buying into it), which has become practically the only way to get around town these days. The days of easily hailing a regular taxi at your hotel or roadside are fast disappearing. Didi is also committing to having 10 million EVs on the road in China by 2028, and it has been steadily expanding abroad since 2016 and targets 2 billion users worldwide in the next 10 years.

It’s all change, and at some pace. Watch this space.


Subway to Chinaplas - not for the claustrophobic...

Test driving Clariant’s AR display at their booth at Chinaplas

Songwon booth swinging into action at Chinaplas

Hella and BHAP signing ceremony at Beijing Automotive Show


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