The World of Chinese - - Editor’s Letter - Robert Foyle Hun­wick Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor


They’re watch­ing you—well, those grannies on the cor­ner wear­ing the red arm­bands cer­tainly are (see p. 62). For decades, these stal­wart se­niors have kept a beady eye on their neigh­bors to make sure they don’t get up to any mis­chief.

They were om­nipresent at any event, even gain­ing the nick­name the “world’s fifth in­tel­li­gence agency” for their ster­ling work foil­ing shared-bike lit­ter­bugs. But the ef­forts of this vol­un­teer work­force may soon not be needed—thanks to Alibaba, Ten­cent, and other cor­po­ra­tions.

Mil­lions have hap­pily signed up for pro­grams such as Wechat Wal­let and Ali­pay, along with at­ten­dant so­cial credit schemes, in­clud­ing the al­ready-mas­sive Sesame Credit. Soon, ev­ery pur­chase made in China that isn’t in cash (and these num­bers are grow­ing) will be item­ized, tracked, geo-tagged, cached, and an­a­lyzed in a vast con­sumerist utopia (or cap­i­tal­ist con­spir­acy; or Or­wellian ex­per­i­ment) in big data we’re call­ing the “Cloud Coun­try” (see p.24).

Plus we look at why Yun­nan’s food has be­come so fash­ion­able; what will hap­pen to Dafen, once the “world’s art fac­tory”; a his­tory of advertising in mod­ern China; the dis­cov­ery of a new species of gib­bon; and why China’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try is los­ing money as fast as it can grow...

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