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Earlier this month, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released one of its regular and wide-ranging reports on the development of China’s internet network, and the ways its “netizens” use it.

The official Chinese government report runs to 129 pages, with some interesting insights into what’s happening online in China. A download link to the full report, including a summary is available here, in Chinese.

All the data is measured until December 2020, and includes some top-line statistics that serve as a useful reminder of the vast scale of online life in China.

The number of internet users is now 989 million, with Internet penetration of 70.4% – an increase of 5.9% since March last year. Most of these people – 854 million or 86.4% of the total users – regularly make online payments. That’s an increase of 86.36 million people in 2020.

Where the report gets interesting from a music industry perspective is its observations and data about online video. 93.7% of Chinese internet users watch online videos, with the flourishing of short-form video warranting some specific observations: “the number of short video users is 873 million, an increase of 100 million over March 2020, accounting for 88.3% of the total netizens.”

The CNNIC notes that the industry around short-form video in China has improved greatly, from the quality and relatability of the content, to the delivery network – and the users are spending more time consuming the videos, thanks to innovation in the short-form video formats.

It claims that new business models and industries are growing out of the booming video space: “Supported by high-quality content, video websites […] encouraged the output of high-quality short video content in various ways, increasing the proportion of short video content, and increasing user stickiness.”

Interestingly, it also notes that shows are beginning life as short-form video, gaining popularity and then transitioning to longer-form video: “Short video platforms are testing the water by launching “micro dramas” and “micro variety shows” that are more suitable for the platform, and then gradually entering the field of long videos.”

(The CNNIC also touches on TikTok’s international success and controversy: “In 2020, short video applications are booming in overseas markets, and they are also facing certain policy risks.”)

As ever, what happens in China’s hothoused tech world will not necessarily translate to other markets – but it’s certainly worth keeping these developments and predictions in mind when we look at our own territories.

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