Limits And Growth In China’s Knowledge Economy

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Tech guru Clay Shirky from Shanghai on freedom, control and the growing knowledge economy in China.

In this file photo, Lei Jun, chairman of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, holds up the latest models of the Xiaomi Note at a press event in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. (AP)
In this file photo, Lei Jun, chairman of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, holds up the latest models of the Xiaomi Note at a press event in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. (AP)

Clay Shirky is one of the smartest guys out there on information technology and society and how they come together to change the world. For the last year he’s been in China, following the story of a very particular Chinese company called Xiaomi. It makes really good, low-cost smartphones – Chinese designed – that are now challenging Apple iPhones all over the world. They are also challenging – whether they mean to or not – the Chinese Communist Party. Info tech challenges central control. Or does it? This hour On Point, Clay Shirky on the Chinese knowledge economy.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Clay Shirky, writer, consultant and teacher on the effects of the Internet on society. Professor of interactive media arts at New York University, Shanghai. Author of the new book, "Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi and the Chinese Dream." Also author of "Here Comes Everybody" and "Cognitive Surplus." (@cshirky)

From Tom’s Reading List

TIME Magazine: A Smartphone Maker Called ‘Little Rice’ Has Big Plans — "Analysts say it’s precisely Xiaomi’s modesty that’s allowed it to dethrone Samsung and log the highest smartphone sales volume in the world’s biggest market this past quarter. A three-year-old firm known for its affordable prices and affable branding, Xiaomi shipped about 15 million units compared to Samsung’s 13.2 million in the second quarter this year, according to a report by Canalys."

The Wall Street Journal: Chinese Smartphone Maker Xiaomi Makes Inroads in India, Eyes U.S. — "Beijing-based Xiaomi, the world’s second most valuable startup after Uber Technologies Inc., rose to the top of the Chinese smartphone market—the world’s largest with more than 500 million users—in just four years. Now, it is expanding into other devices including TVs and expanding smartphone sales in countries beyond China."

Benedict Evans: The smartphone is the new sun — "Today, there are well over 2bn smartphones in use, and there are between 3.5 and 4.5bn people with a mobile phone of some kind, out of only a little over 5bn adults on earth. Over the next few years almost all of the people who don't yet have a phone will get one, and almost all of the phones on earth will become smartphones. A decade ago some of that was subject to debate - today it isn't. What all those people pay for data, and how they charge their phones, may be a challenge, but the smartphone itself is close to a universal product for humanity - the first the tech industry has ever had. "

Read An Excerpt Of "Little Rice" By Clay Shirky

US Senate Passes Controversial Surveillance Bill

Timothy Lee, senior correspondent covering technology and economics at Vox. (@binarybits)

Vox: The Senate just passed a bill that could help the NSA spy on you -- "Support for the legislation seems to have come mostly from US intelligence agencies, which would gain access to even more information about Americans' online activities. It's not clear how much CISA would expand government surveillance of Americans' online activities, but critics say the broad information-sharing language in the legislation creates a privacy menace that far outweighs any benefits from increased online security."

This program aired on October 28, 2015.


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