8 key facts about China digital landscape (2020 update)

Do you know that?

  • China will have close to 1 billion internet users in a few years.
  • China has more smartphone users than the US and India combined.
  • Retail e-commerce sales in China is 3 times that of the US.

This post will include up to date, relevant facts about overall China’s digital landscape. For additional context, about 1 year ago, I wrote about China’s digital landscape key facts.

1. China internet users will hit One Billion in a few years time

internet users in China 2019 - 2023

Mobile internet user penetration in China is consistently at more than 90%

mobile internet penetration in China 2019 2023

In comparison to China, the US mobile internet penetration is lower by about 5-10%.

mobile internet penetration in china vs the us from 2019 -2023

2. China has more smartphone users than both the US and India combined

smartphone users in china, us and india in 2019

Smartphone penetration in China (as a percentage of internet users) is close to 90% (according to eMarketer) too.

3. Average 4G download speed in China is comparable to that of the US

According to the February 2019 Broadband Development Association “Q4 2018 Broadband Development Report.”, China’s average 4G download speed in 2018 was 22.05 Mbps. From the same report, between 2018 and 2017, the average 4G download speed improved by more than 20%.

For the US, according to OpenSignal, in Jul 2018, the average download speed was more than 20 Mbps. The same figure in Jul 2019 was 24.6 Mbps.

So we can roughly conclude that the 4G speed is about the same in both countries.

This fact is important because it shows that the internet infrastructure in China (for a much larger userbase) is comparable to that of the US. So at least from an internet speed perspective, companies in both countries are working with the same set up when developing their digital applications.

4. Chinese internet users spend on average 4 hours online daily

average time spent online by internet users in China, the US, Japan and India in 2019

5. Retail e-commerce sales in China is 3 times the size of the US

retail e-commerce in china vs the us in 2019

E-commerce penetration as a percentage of total retail in China is also more than 3 times that of the US.

Actually, in 2019, China’s retail e-commerce sales was more than the rest of the world combined!

China e-commerce vs the rest of the world in 2019

China’s retail e-commerce continues to grow at a much faster rate than the US or the world.

retail e-commerce growth in china, us and the world 2020 - 2022

The majority (80.3%) of China’s retail e-commerce happens on mobile.

mobile e-commerce penetration as % of total retail e-commerce in 2019 between china, the US and the world average

6. China has more mobile payment users (61%) than the rest of the world combined (39%)

proximity mobile payment users in china vs the world from 2019 - 2022

With more than 577 million mobile payment users, mobile payment penetration amongst smartphone users is more than 80% in 2019.

7. China is the number 2 games market in the world in terms of revenue in 2019

2019 games revenue between us, china, Japan, South Korea, Germany and the UK according to newzoo report

8. China digital landscape is dominated by 4 companies Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Toutiao (BATT)

Previously, it used to be that we compared or referred to Chinese internet companies by their Silicon Valley equivalents like Baidu is the Google Search for China, or Alibaba is the Amazon for China, etc. However, many of the top Chinese apps have become super apps that they dominate not just in one vertical but multiple verticals.

Some key stats about their monthly active users (MAU) are below, according to iResearch in Oct 2019 and BATT’s own reports:

  • Baidu
  • Alibaba:
    • Taobao e-commerce: 680 million MAUs
    • Alipay (the most popular mobile payment solution in China): 679 million MAUs
  • Tencent:
    • WeChat super app: 1.15 billion MAUs. According to eMarketer Oct 2019, WeChat users spend more than 2 hours daily on the platform.
    • WeChat mini-programs have more than 300 million daily active users.
  • Toutiao (developed by ByteDance):
    • Toutiao news (the most popular, machine learning enabled news aggregator): 252 million MAUs
    • Douyin (the most popular short-form video platform): 427 million MAUs

That’s all from me for today.


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