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China sends out a message at CES

9th January 2017
Joe Bush

While discussing the subject of technology, we in the west tend to have certain pre-conceived ideas when it comes to China. A country that is still perceived as something of an enigma for some, and which has a reputation as nothing more than an imitator that indulges in counterfeit activity and tends to completely ignore intellectual property, whilst pilfering ideas from the US and Europe to reassemble on the cheap.

There’s no smoke without fire as they say, and some of these perceptions are not completely unjustified, as the country has not only been guilty of counterfeiting individual devices, but has imitated whole shops in the past, having had a fake Apple store closed down in 2015. Indeed, if we’re told that a device has been made in China, who of us isn’t initially sceptical as to the origin of its design and snigger at its perceived lack of reliability?

However, among the many themes that emerged from the recent CES show in Las Vegas, the annual consumer technology exhibition, was that the show was very much used as a vehicle by a wide range of Chinese representatives to challenge these perceptions.

A pattern at the show was that Chinese companies are now competing with their western counterparts on price, ideas and design. The truth is that Chinese consumers have become far more affluent over the last ten years and, as a consequence, their technology industry has followed suit, and is now setting its sights on cracking the west – stage one of which is to establish greater trust from western consumers.

At this year’s CES event a plethora of Chinese companies from conglomerates to start-ups showcased their products. For example, Lenovo Group introduced an Amazon Alexa-like voice control assistant and its first ever VR head-mounted display based on Windows system.

There was also a buzz on the Faraday Future stand as the automotive company unveiled the FF91 which the company claims is the fastest electric car in production, including the Tesla Model S.

On the final day of the show, it was announced that a Nokia branded smartphone is to be released exclusively in China. The announcement marked Nokia’s return to the smartphone market, after struggling following the launch of the iPhone ten years ago and the subsequent release of Google Android. Other new smartphone models were announced by Xiaomi Corp, ASUS ZenFone and ZTE Corp.

And Huawei, the company with the third highest global smartphone sales (behind Samsung and Apple), introduced its Mate 9, the company’s first high-end device launched in the US. Chief Executive Richard Yu stated at the show that the company was quickly shaking off its imitator reputation and that Samsung’s issues of last year with the Galaxy 7, has presented Huawei with an undoubted opportunity.

The Wednesday of the show saw DJI Technology introduce a new aerial mapping app and a limited edition Phantom 4 drone designed for the Chinese New Year, while Shenzhen-based Qihan Technology Co unveiled the fourth generation of it service robot, SanBot (pictured), which will come to the US early this year.

Also standing out among the Chinese start-ups at the show was the fingerprint sensor system Goodix, healthtech wearable company Vivalnk, AI-empowered robotics maker Ubtech and interactive smartwatch Mobvoi.
2017 also marked the first ever ‘China Night’ at CES, an evening aimed at helping Chinese enterprises, especially small and medium companies, to further integrate industrial resources, and increase the speed of globalisation through international exhibitions.

To highlight the growth in technology investment in China, Yu went on to highlight that Huawei’s research and development spend is now roughly on a par with Apple. And while a product of Chinese origin may still hold trepidation for some, these barriers are being broken down and headway into the west is being made – changing the country’s reputation from an imitator to an innovator.

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