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Why China Is a New Nexus of Innovation and Creativity
This is the first in a series of Insights articles, Investing in China’s Tech Revolution, in which we will dive deeper into the forces that have catapulted China from a perceived follower to a leader on the global technology stage. The Emerging Markets Equity Team at OppenheimerFunds has closely followed and invested in this theme for several years, and we believe there is more to come.

China’s rise as a global technology powerhouse is becoming broadly acknowledged, but the scale, nuance, and innovation encapsulated in that rise does not enjoy the same recognition. Indeed, many in the Western world remain fixated on a host of longstanding China stereotypes, for example, that its tech industry is thriving only because of intellectual property infringement and strict Internet regulation, known as the Great Firewall of China.

The truth about China’s tech landscape is far more dynamic and, for investors, is yielding significant opportunities. In recent decades, China has essentially moved mountains when it comes to innovation, and has fostered an unparalleled technology ecosystem fueled by burgeoning competition, homegrown talent, and capital.

Tracking China’s Rise as an Innovator

About five years ago, trends that emerged in China began to shape the global tech landscape, a phenomenon dubbed “reverse innovation.” As a result, Silicon Valley companies have come to increasingly regard China as the laboratory for future innovation. Notable examples include Google’s establishment of an artificial intelligence (AI) lab in Beijing, as well as an alliance between Google and Tencent focused on cloud services.

For a comparison, consider the growth in market value of Internet platforms in the United States and China. Circa 2013, Amazon, Google, and Facebook had a combined market capitalization approaching $500 billion. In contrast, China’s Tencent and Baidu together amounted to just over $100 billion, and Alibaba’s IPO was still a year away. Since then, the combined value of Amazon, Google, and Facebook has risen approximately 5x, but the combined value of Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu has risen approximately 9x. Without Alibaba, the collective value of Tencent and Baidu has still risen 5x.

An investor in China tech would thus have enjoyed twin benefits – the growth of existing publicly listed platforms, and the opportunities arising from new listings, the number of which appears set to accelerate.

In 2013, China’s contribution to the global creation of unicorns (private companies valued above $1 billion) was negligible, while the United States accounted for a 75% share. In 2017, China created one-third of the new unicorns globally,1 and 7 of the top 10 in terms of market capitalization.2 (Exhibit 1) Of the world’s six largest private tech companies valued at more than $30 billion, four are from China: Ant Financial, Didi-Chuxing, Toutiao, and Meituan (Uber and AirBnB are the other two).3

Exhibit 1: Chinas Share of Global Unicorn Formation is Growing

The Key Drivers of China’s Tech Surge

China and the United States have three macro variables in common: enormous pools of talent, deep and large reservoirs of capital, and continental-size markets that permit massive scale. The intersection of these variables has enabled the propagation of unicorns in both countries, but it is the uniqueness of the market context within China that has spurred the adoption, breadth, and profitability of these businesses. 

In our view, the secret to China’s technology surge lies in three interlinked factors: (1) the legacy of traditional infrastructure and the consequent opportunities to “leapfrog,” (2) the innovation within business models that created solutions tailored for China’s realities, and (3) the speed and intensity of user adoption that has driven enormous growth and capital to fund this transformation.

1. Legacy of traditional infrastructure.
Offline retail space in the United States is plentiful – about 50 square feet per person.4 In China, that number is less than one square foot per person.5 It should come as no surprise, therefore, that e-commerce penetration in China is in the high teens, about twice that of the United States.6 What’s more, about 40% of incremental growth in retail sales is happening online, pointing to a likely doubling of e-commerce penetration in coming years.

Meanwhile, the average number of credit cards owned in the United States is about 2.5 cards per capita and 4.0 per household,7 about 10 times the number in China. Thanks to the widespread availability of mobile payments, Chinese users now pay with cash less than one-third of the time8 and one-sixth of urban residents no longer consider it necessary to carry a wallet.9 (Exhibit 2)

Exhibit 2: Many in China No Longer Carry Cash

Legacy issues exist in businesses too. China’s per capita information technology spending is about one-eleventh of the United States’,10 but with the country’s median age approaching 40 years, China is on a rapid drive to embrace automation and productivity tools. Enter cloud computing, which is being embraced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on a mass scale, leapfrogging the era of client-server hardware and ERP platforms. With over 40 million SMEs,11 China’s industrial and services base is uniquely fragmented, creating further demand for platforms that enable businesses to reach their user base.

In parallel, China’s technology companies have developed unique business models. The silos of e-commerce, social networks, and search seen in the Western world apply only partially in China. Examples of flexibility within business models in Chinese companies abound.

2. Innovation within business models.

Alibaba is the world’s largest e-commerce platform – its gross market value (GMV) of $768 billion in the year ended March 2018 dwarfs Amazon’s global GMV by a factor of more than 2.5x.12 But Alibaba is also the world’s third largest advertising platform, after Google and Facebook.

Elsewhere, Tencent may be the largest gaming company in the world, while also boasting over a billion monthly active users (MAUs) on its social networking platforms, but its business goes well beyond this. The company’s WeChat platform pioneered the concept of the “super-app,” a veritable operating system for daily life in China, facilitating entertainment, communication, e-commerce, travel, and lifestyle services all at once.

Meituan, China’s largest food delivery platform, is also its largest domestic hotel booking service by volume.

China’s online video businesses bring together both ad-supported (as with YouTube) and subscription services (as with Netflix) under one roof. Facebook may have struggled with video, but in China, Douyin – a short video platform introduced by ByteDance (also known for its Toutiao news app) – rose to 500 million MAUs in just two years. ByteDance, a business founded in 2012 with no backing from China’s technology behemoths, now owns 10% of all mobile app time in China.13

And Pinduoduo, a “social commerce” platform founded in 2015, recently listed at a value north of $20 billion, having grabbed over 300 million active shoppers in under three years.

3. Speed and intensity of user adoption.

The third credit for China’s tech surge goes to its users. China’s nearly 800 million-strong Internet user base is unique in the speed with which it adopts new modes of living, communication, and entertainment. Consider payments. Alibaba’s Alipay mobile payment platform counts over 500 million users. But less well known is that over 300 million users also use it for wealth management, 400 million for insurance, 100 million for financing, and 260 million for credit profiling!14 (Exhibit 3)

Exhibit 3: Rapid User Adoption in China Boosts Innovative Business Models

In e-commerce, consumers in most countries show a propensity for buying electronics and books online. Broaden the categories, and Chinese users stand out. For example, 85% of Chinese users are willing to buy beauty products online, versus just 50% of users in the United States. For household items, the Chinese propensity to buy online is 84%, versus 36% in the U.S.15

There are other differences too. On average, the Chinese spend 160 minutes a day watching linear television (including multi-tasking),  well below the U.S. average of 240 minutes.16 China may be an attractive box office for Hollywood, but the numbers tell a different tale – each year, per-capita cinema visits in China are well under 1.0x,17 less than one-third of the U.S. average. It is no surprise that unique opportunities in entertainment have emerged online in China, and its technology businesses have been quick to respond.

An Evolution that Comes with Challenges

What’s next? China’s innovation and creativity will continue to evolve, as will its ambition. Frontier technologies around AI, autonomous driving, drones, and associated areas (such as facial recognition at scale) are the new ground zero. In 2016, China accounted for only 12% of global funding in AI startups.18 In 2017, it leapt to a 48% share, well ahead of the United States’ share of 38%. (Exhibit 4) From 2016 to 2017, investments in facial recognition technology jumped six-fold. Between 2015 and 2017, there were 64 China-backed equity deals to U.S. AI startups. The reverse flow from the United States to China amounted to only 28 deals.19

Exhibit 4: China is a Global Leader in Artificial Intelligence

But this also brings new challenges. For example, China lags quite significantly in semiconductor knowhow, in some areas by a factor of 6x-10x.20 Additionally, China needs to build and retain its AI talent; studies indicate that the country has, at best, half the number of AI experts versus the United States.21 And finally, geopolitical concerns may limit Chinese investments into the United States and technology transfers between these twin hubs of global technology.

This makes for an interesting future, but from the base that China has already reached, we view the road ahead with optimism. Within the Emerging Markets Equity Team, we believe that our early and deep involvement in the rise of China’s technology ecosystem has provided an edge that we seek to build on.

The Investing in China’s Tech Revolution series will continue to focus on the China technology landscape, with future Insights articles diving deeper into individual themes of food delivery, ride hailing, fintech, and omnichannel “new” retail.



作者:Justin Leverenz、Bhavtosh Vajpayee

本文是 Insights 系列文章《投资中国技术革命》中的第一篇,我们将深入探讨哪些力量促使中国从公认的追随者变成了全球技术舞台上的领导者。奥本海默基金公司的新兴市场公平团队对该主题进行了多年的密切关注和投资,并且我们相信在未来这一趋势会只增不减。



大约在五年前,中国国内出现的趋势开始影响全球技术行业的面貌,这一现象被称为“逆向创新”。结果,硅谷的公司开始逐渐将中国视为未来创新的实验室。著名的例子有谷歌在北京设立的人工智能 (AI) 实验室,以及谷歌和腾讯就云服务达成合作联盟。

就此,可以对比中美互联网平台市场价值的增长。2013 年左右,亚马逊、谷歌和 Facebook 的总市值接近 5000 亿美元。相比之下,中国的腾讯和百度的总市值仅为 1000 多亿美元,而一年后阿里巴巴才开始进行首次公开募股。此后,亚马逊、谷歌和 Facebook 的总市值大约增长了 5 倍,而腾讯、阿里巴巴和百度的总市值大约增长了 9 倍。即使不算上阿里巴巴,腾讯和百度的总市值也增长了 5 倍左右。


2013 年,中国成立的独角兽公司(价值超过 10 亿美元的私营公司)占全球的份额几乎微不足道,而彼时的全球 75% 的独角兽公司均来自美国。但在 2017 年,中国创造了全球约三分之一的新独角兽公司,1 并且市值排名前十的独角兽公司中有 7 家是中国公司。2 (附件 1)世界上市值超过 300 亿美元的六大私营科技公司中,有四家来自中国:蚂蚁金融、滴滴出行、今日头条和美团(另外两家是优步和爱彼迎)。3


我们认为,中国技术浪潮的秘密在于三个相互关联的要素:(1) 遗留的传统基础设施和随之而来的“跨越式发展”机遇;(2) 商业模式的创新,为中国的现实问题打造了量身定做的解决方案;(3) 用户采纳的速度和密度,推动了急剧增长和资本发展,进而为转型提供了资金。

美国的线下零售空间很多——每人约 50 平方英尺。4 而在中国,平均每人的线下零售空间小于 1 平方英尺。5 因此毫不奇怪中国的电子商务渗透率会高达几十,大约是美国的两倍。6 此外,大约 40% 的零售额增长来自于在线渠道,这说明未来几年内电子商务渗透率可能会翻番。

同时,在美国,平均每人拥有约 2.5 张信用卡,每个家庭约拥有 4.0 张,7 大约为中国的 10 倍。由于移动支付的广泛使用,现在中国用户使用现金支付的比例少于三分之一8 ,而六分之一的城市居民不再需要随身携带钱包。9(附件 2)

企业中也存在遗留问题。中国的人均信息技术支出约为美国的十一分之一,10 但是随着中国人口年龄中位数接近 40 岁,中国正迅速采用自动化和生产力工具。中小型企业 (SME) 大规模采用云计算技术,跨越了客户端硬件和 ERP 平台时代。中国的中小型企业超过 4000 万家,11 其行业和服务基础呈现出独特的分散模式,因此,对于允许企业接触其用户基础的平台需求会进一步增加。


阿里巴巴是全球最大的电子商务平台——2018 å¹´ 3 月底,其总市场价值 (GMV) 为 7680 亿美元,高于亚马逊全球 GMV 超过 2.5 倍。12 但是,阿里巴巴同时也是世界第三大广告平台,仅次于谷歌和 Facebook。

此外,腾讯可能是世界上最大的游戏公司,同时,其社交平台上的每月活跃用户 (MAU) 超过 10 亿,但其业务范围远不止如此。腾讯的微信平台率先推出“小程序”的概念,是中国真正的日常生活操作系统,可同时满足娱乐、交流、电子商务、旅行和生活服务。


中国的在线视频业务同时汇集了广告支持(和 YouTube 一样)和订阅服务(和 Netflix 一样)。Facebook 可能在视频业务方面陷入困境,但在中国,字节跳动(以其今日头条新闻应用程序而闻名)公司推出了短视频平台抖音,在短短两年内,其每月活跃用户就达到了 5 亿。字节跳动成立于 2012 年,并没有中国技术巨头的支持,但现在占据了中国所有移动应用程序时间的 10%。13

拼多多是 2015 年成立的“社交商务”平台,最近以 200 亿美元的市值鸣锣上市,在成立后不到三年的时间里吸引了超过 3 亿的活跃购物者。

中国技术浪潮的第三个要素是用户。中国近 8 亿互联网用户群在采纳新的生活、交流和娱乐方式的速度方面独一无二。以付款为例。阿里巴巴的移动支付平台支付宝拥有 5 亿以上的用户。但鲜为人知的是,超过 3 亿的用户还使用支付宝进行财富管理,超过 4 亿的用户使用支付宝购买保险,超过 1 亿的用户使用支付宝进行理财,超过 2.6 亿的用户使用支付宝管理信用状况!14(附件 3)

在电子商务方面,大多数国家的消费者都倾向于在线购买电子产品和书籍。而在拓展在线购物类别方面,中国用户脱颖而出。比如,85% 的中国用户愿意在线购买美容产品,美国仅有 50%。在家居用品方面,中国用户愿意在线购买的比率为 84%,美国仅有 36%。15

此外还存在其他差异。平均而言,中国居民平均每天观看有线电视(包括一边观看电视一边从事其他活动)的时间为 160 分钟,远低于美国的平均 240 分钟。16 对于好莱坞而言,中国是极具吸引力的票房市场,但其数据却显示出了另一番景象——中国消费者每年前往电影院的人均次数不足 1.0,17 比美国低三分之一。因此,中国出现在线娱乐产业的独特机遇不足为奇,其技术企业也在快速做出回应。

下一步是什么?中国的创新和创造力将继续发展,其雄心也是如此。人工智能、自动驾驶、无人机和相关领域(比如大规模的面部识别)的前沿技术是新的着地点。2016 年,中国的人工智能创业公司吸纳的融资金额仅占全球的 12%。18 2017 年,其份额直接跃升至 48%,远远超过美国 38% 的份额。(附件 4)2016 年至 2017 年间,面部识别技术的投资额增长了 6 倍。2015 年至 2017 年间,中国投资者共进行了 64 笔面向美国人工智能创业公司进行的股权交易,而美国面向中国的此类股权交易仅有 28 笔。19

但是,这也带来了新的挑战。比如,中国在半导体专业知识方面十分滞后,在某些领域甚至滞后 6-10 倍。20 此外,中国需要培养并留住人工智能人才。研究表明,中国的人工智能专家人数仅为美国的一半。21 最后,地理政治学方面的考虑可能会限制中国在美国的投资以及这两个全球技术枢纽之间的技术转移。


《投资中国技术革命》系列会继续关注中国的技术行业,未来的 Insights 文章将深入探讨外卖、打车、金融科技和全渠道“新”零售等单个主题。








所有所持股份的截止日期为 2018 年 7 月 31 日,可能会有所变动。

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  1. ^Source: CB Insights, 2017.
  2. ^Source: World Economic Forum, January 2018.
  3. ^As per media reports and valuations of last reported funding rounds.
  4. ^Source: Cushman & Wakefield, 2016.
  5. ^Source: Haver Analytics and Bernstein Research, 2017.
  6. ^Source: National Bureau of Statistics for China, and eMarketer for US, 2017 data.
  7. ^Source: Statista, 2016 data.
  8. ^As per PBOC, as of mid-2017.
  9. ^As per a study conducted by Tencent, RDCY and Ipsos, October 2017.
  10. ^Source: EITO, Statista, 2016.
  11. ^Source: Statista, as reported for 2016.
  12. ^As per public disclosures and media quotes.
  13. ^Source: QuestMobile, June 2018.
  14. ^All Alipay numbers as disclosed by Ant Financial and Alibaba in July 2017.
  15. ^Propensity to buy online has been studied by A.T. Kearney in a Nov 2014 study titled “Connected Consumer are not created equal: A Global Perspective.”
  16. ^Source: Bernstein Research, January 2017.
  17. ^Source: IECONOMICS, for 2016.
  18. ^Source: CB Insights, 1Q2018 update.
  19. ^Ibid.
  20. ^Source: “Deciphering China’s AI Dream,” by Jeffrey Ding, University of Oxford, March 2018.
  21. ^Ibid.