Today we're sitting down with Rui Ma. She is a very old friend of mine who also runs one of the top Chinese tech podcasts. Th ere are so many stories we never get to hear in the West, so I thought it would be fun to talk through a bunch of those narratives. It's a country of 1.4B people. People say China is either the future, or it copies the future. The reality is a little bit of both.
The best podcast on Chinese technology— Tech Buzz China
Meet Rui Ma, Co-host of Tech Buzz China
Tech in the West doesn't pay enough attention to China
Why Rui started Tech Buzz China
Luckin Coffee is an example of US tech media getting it wrong
Media’s false equivalence: Luckin = Starbucks
What's it called and how do we find it?
It's called Tech Buzz China, and then you can just go to any platform and we'll be there.
That's awesome, and what kind of stuff do you like to talk about?
Basically I talk about China tech, but it's with a heavy emphasis on internet. So, consumer internet primarily because that's really a lot of the big Chinese internet companies, that's what they're doing.
There's just so much happening in China and it feels like the media environment is completely separate. It doesn't make sense, it's worlds apart in sort of a sheer hardware platform, a sheer, like, software platform, but I don't think people pay attention to what's happening with Chinese companies nearly enough, and I'm glad for what you do. Thanks for doing that!
Oh, thank you.
Why did you start the podcast?
I thought there was an opportunity to more clearly bridge a divide that I saw between English coverage of Chinese tech companies and then what actually was happening on the ground in China. There are certain companies that are really popular in the media, or with the media here in the U.S., and are actually viewed quite skeptically in China, for example. There are other companies that are viewed very strongly in China that might not get a lot of airtime here in the U.S. but that are really interesting. And so, I look primarily at actually Chinese rich coverage, and I lived and worked in China for eight years, so, I tried to use my knowledge and cultural understanding to bring that, yeah.
That's super useful. What's the most extreme example of this?
One of the more extreme examples of recent years is a company called Luckin Coffee, which basically does delivery of their coffee. In China, there's a lot of skepticism about the company, but in the U.S., I think that they have, you know, there's some balanced coverage, but overall, I felt like that they were covered more favorably here.
How do you think that happens, that reporters here can't get access to the right people to sort of vet the story properly?
I think basically the reason why that happens is that there are certain narratives that come more naturally to Western audiences, so it's just more interesting because it's more familiar, whereas there are lots of things that are more unique to China that are just difficult to explain without have to provide a ton of context.
In the case of Luckin, they sort of just used one work to explain their business, and the word was Starbucks, which I think everyone here can understand, but if you take another company in China, like Kuaishou, which is a short-video app that does live-streaming e-commerce, all these other things, it's just much harder to explain 'cause there's no Western analog.