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Protocol | China
The people, power and politics of Chinese tech, every Wednesday.

Paying for a job in Chinese tech

Paying for a job in Chinese tech

Good morning and welcome to Protocol | China. I'm David Wertime, executive director of Protocol | China, and I'm joined by reporters Shen Lu and Zeyi Yang and data scientist Clara Wang.

We're making the largest-ever Western newsroom investment in covering Chinese tech so we can tell you what's next at the intersection of technology, policy and business in the world's largest country. As part of that, each Wednesday, the Protocol | China newsletter will bring you news and analysis on the major companies, trends and people you need to know in China. And throughout the week, you'll find our stories and research on the Protocol | China site.

Let's dive in.

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THE BIG STORY

Another way to climb China's 'greasy' tech pole

How much would you be willing to pay to get a job in Chinese big tech?

Ambitious and unscrupulous climbers used to pay to get Communist Party cadre jobs. Now they're doing it to get a big tech job and play the IPO/liquidity lottery. Chinese tech site Xianwei Stories reports there's a structured grey market.

  • Recruitment agencies will polish applicants' resumes and sell referrals.
  • A referral runs $300 to $800, while a fake internship experience to burnish credentials starts at $1,500.
  • Beware scammers. One woman agreed to pay out 80% of her first month's salary to a recruiter, only to discover it got her the wrong job at the right company.

But the view from tech's summit is darker than starry-eyed job seekers might think. Protocol's Shen Lu talked to women inside China's tech giants; they say they're surrounded by a "Wolf Culture" full of "greasy men" making them feel objectified and unwelcome. One Alibaba employee and a former Baidu employee told Protocol | China that lewd conversations and sexual harassment are rife at their firms.

  • The stats can mislead: 70% of Chinese startups have at least one female executive, a higher proportion than companies in the United States.
  • But the women who get that far have to buy into a fundamentally male operating system and try harder to fit in rather than help other female staff up the ladder.
  • After a long day, women in the staff ranks still face the expectation they'll do the housework, and even relatively enlightened tech employers like ByteDance aren't doing much to address it.

There are lessons here for all of tech, not least of which is to never underestimate how attractive the sector is — or how much disappointment can hit new workers who don't feel they're in tech's "in" crowd.

UP NOW AT PROTOCOL | CHINA 

  • China's nerdy anime site is on a collision course with Tencent. Bilibili.com was a site for Anime fans. Then it became China's YouTube. Now it's building a huge esports platform. But if it wants to grow further, it'll have to square up to China's gaming behemoth. Zeyi Yang has more.
  • Kuaishou's IPO prospectus is out and Protocol's Hirsh Chitkara has everything you need to know here, on the company he described as "part Twitch, part QVC." Kuaishou is huge in China's "Xiachen" market (下沉市场), comprising rural areas and lower-tier cities outside the big, glitzy ones. Given China's size, it's still a massive TAM, and tech's waking up to its power.
  • Who has the ear of China's most prolific cyber regulator? A national standards body called TC260 has rolled out hundreds of standards over the past five years relating to data privacy and cyber security, but two of China's tech giants are showing outsized influence, even using new regulations to try to cut near-peers off at the knees. Protocol's Clara Wang looked at the data to figure out what happens next.

LEARN CHINESE

"Yaobu gongsi" (腰部公司), literally meaning "waist company." They're tech's wannabe giants, such as Bytedance and ascendant Bilibili, that nip at the heels of the real titans such as Alibaba and Tencent. The Yaobu have to speak softly and tread carefully; the giants, who often hold major stakes in them, have been known to crush the smaller rivals.

Got an area of Chinese tech culture you want help understanding? Let us know and we'll help in a future edition of the newsletter: china@protocol.com.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

BIG BROTHER BEIJING 

  • A China government group has beef with big tech's AI. The China Consumers Association, a government-backed organization, released a 14-point complaint leveled at how big tech misuses algorithms, including targeted search results and algorithmic price discrimination. The association proposed several remedies, including an ethics body and greater transparency. It's another sign that regulations on AI are in the works.
  • Pinduoduo just lost a sweet deal with CCTV. It was going to debut its payment service by sending digital "red envelopes" of cash to audience members of CCTV's live, televised Spring Festival Gala, an annual event that gets more viewers than the Super Bowl. This is the first time the gala has canceled a commercial partnership; Douyin, the original Chinese version of TikTok, has taken Pinduoduo's place. (Pinduoduo is facing massive backlash after two of its young employees died unexpectedly within a week of each other in early January. Chinese web users are wondering out loud if Pinduoduo's approach to labor makes it the new Foxconn.)
  • Looks like Ant Group is a financial company and not a tech company after all. The fintech behemoth that's long insisted it's more "tech" than "fin" will likely bow to regulators, The Wall Street Journal reports today, with a plan in the works to restructure as a financial holding company. This would subject it to a bevy of strict rules and prevent Ant from engaging in "regulatory arbitrage," shifting risk from more regulated to less regulated subsidiaries.

ONE COMPANY YOU SHOULD KNOW

The hottest AI fintech

Meet Bairong Yunchuang, a fintech based in Beijing that uses AI to assess financial risk for companies and borrowers. It submitted its IPO prospectus in Hong Kong in December, and it's already used by 4,200 financial service providers in the country, including some of China's most important state banks. It uses big data to help banks assess individual creditworthiness — a killer app in a country that lacks a proper credit rating system. But while it may be backed by Sequoia Capital China, IDG Capital and CICC, it still hasn't broken a profit. And China's soon-to-be finalized Personal Information Protection Law could deliver a significant hit to its data-sharing and data-heavy operations.

CHINA GOES GLOBAL

  • India's Chinese app ban is now permanent. Indian authorities announced on Monday they are keeping in place the nearly year-old provisional ban on ByteDance-owned TikTok, as well as over 100 other Chinese apps. India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology says the bans fortify India's "sovereignty and integrity," but it looks mostly political. The ban started after a deadly fight between Chinese and Indian troops near the "line of actual control" separating them. Beijing has never apologized, and there was another minor skirmish near the border on Monday.
  • Under Biden, expect fewer bans, more mitigation. An influential group of technology and China analysts, many with former senior government experience and headed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, recommended in a paper leaked to Axios on Tuesday that the U.S. focus on mitigating China's technology competitiveness (rather than banning everything, as under Trump). It recommends creating a new open-source Science and Technology Forecasting Center within government and a new multilateral tech democracy forum, the T-12. One of the authors told Protocol: "We want to create a public/private partnership to really improve the overall intelligence capabilities of the USG, and bring in the early stage financing information and views of technology that exist in the VC and Angel investor world." Protocol's Emily Birnbaum has more analysis here.
  • The U.S.-China tech war's temperature isn't falling. Beijing has said it wants a "reset" in U.S.-China relations under Biden, but its behavior suggests something different. Xi Jinping said at The World Economic Forum on Monday that to dodge a "cold war," the world needed to avoid "selective multilateralism" or the building of "small circles." Sounds a lot like the kinds of alliances the Biden administration is emphasizing.
  • What's one idea from Chinese tech the West should copy? Protocol's latest Braintrust assembles experts Rob Atkinson (ITIF), Paul Triolo (Eurasia Group), Yu Zhou (Vassar) and Kevin Xu (Interconnected) to weigh in.

STRAIGHT FROM CHINA’S WEB

We scan China's web so you don't have to. Here's what we're seeing:

  • Every big tech company in China is running a microlending service. No, really. Baidu Maps. Baidu Tieba (a Quora-like posting site). Ele.me, a food delivery company. Weibo. ByteDance-owned Jinri Toutiao. Ecommerce giant Meituan. Video platform iQIYI. You can borrow as little as 0.2 RMB or as much as 200,000RMB (about $31,000), although interest will run 7.2% to 20.75% (we're looking at you, Alipay). Chinese tech site iFanr has more.
  • How to fake your health code. To get around in much of China, you need a green digital health code, denoting low COVID-19 risk. One Weibo user earlier this month found an app on Google Play that can generate different QR patterns to help users fake their way past China's vast and fragmented pandemic risk control system. The app was quickly removed.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Micron

For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

ONE MORE THING

Disinfection robots descend on a jittery Beijing

As northern China enters another round of COVID-19 angst, the capital's subway system has started to deploy disinfection robots. These mini fridge-like critters will case every subway car and spray a disinfectant mist of hydrogen peroxide, reports Beijing News. It's further proof the government doesn't feel particularly relaxed about having "defeated" COVID-19, despite state media chest-thumping.

Thanks for reading. We'll be back with Protocol | China next Wednesday.

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