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The Middle Kingdom Blog

18/6/17

CULTURE: Get familiar with Wei Xin (WeChat)

Look it at this way: It's a cashless society and who performs every single one of the transactions? Tencent's WeChat. It's indispensible. These days, when I go to 7-11 knockoff Mei Jia or whatever it's called (with a logo deliberately made to resemble McDonald's arches, I guess it translates to Family Mart), I don't get out my wallet. I get out my phone and they scan my "payment QR code" and I walk out with my Minute Maid Orange Juice (owned by KO, naturally) and whistle on down the road. Multiply that by about ten transactions a day, from the subway to the grocery store to the DiDi taxi service.

 

Then multiply that by two billion people.

Imagine this: if they even collect a hundredth of a tenth of a penny per transaction... trillions! No wonder they are already the largest capitalized company on the Hong Kong exchange.

Sure, they may have this and that scandal and they may also enable the Chinese government to spy and data aggregate their own people both here in China and abroad, but who cares? It's far too late to complain. The modern surveillance state is here and my prediction is that in 20 years China will move moderately more to the American model and America will make leaps and bounds to try and emulate China. (Especially the tritorous craven authoritarian Republican party and its stooges, unless we absolutely rout them right now and never look back). Like Perry Farrell once sang, "Save your complaints for expat party conversation. Nobody is gonna stop. No one. No way."

That's right, just admit it Ted Templeman, our beloved American 20th century democratic model is defunct, and it was the robots what done it. Technology has rendered most of us again serfs and the technolords are in charge. Now get back to feeding the machine, pleasant peasant! (See below). Let's be honest: it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the whole fucking American orchard which is --to be honest-- chock full of mostly clueless nuts and rubes. That's the power of today's tech: at the command of a man with a robot army.

EXPERIENCE  (Note: NSFC - Not safe for China due to language & cumulative frustration after days of trying to get back in to my own email account, lol).

 

If Tencent is the winner, who is the loser? Google, the post-do no evil jack-bots. They were too good for China some years ago and so instead of influencing the country in small ways from the inside like they should have (guess they're now trying to get back in slowly), their hubris pushed them into abandoning global marketshare. You can get Bing search and you can get Yahoo's front page in China (both potentially self-censored) but you can't access your Gmail in China. And there's no app Play store. And you can't load any webpage that uses Google API or code or servers or whatever. Like my own webpage, for example.

Thus, one of the biggest frustrations of modern expat living in China is the realization that you (meaning me) are totally dependant on Google for almost everything yet you have no real control over being let back in to your accounts. Nevermind opioids, just try kicking your G-habit! It sucks because then you have to buy a VeePeeEnt (and misspell it so you don't get the algos mad) which drops the connection every twenty minutes (looking at you Express VPN, though the others are even worse) while you watch the progress meter spin spin spin like a kid's toy and you e-watch your productivity take a veritable god-damn nose dive just because they couldn't buy a clue in terms of a long term China strategy.

Hey, Google! Pay me a few failure millions and I'll work with a team to get you back into the game around here. Not only am I more clever than most of the supposedly elite Stanford dropouts you hire (I'll wager, since I'm here and they're not, plus I never had to suck up to a company that thinks brainteasers and bot algos are the sole way to find new hires), note that I'm actually not doing much evil, too. Yet. (Because for now I lack the start up capital).

Evil? Surely you must be doing more of your typical exaggerating and beef-brewing for clicks and shares, right Kevin? Well, maybe. Anyway, I'm sure I better say so because when their robot armies swarm the earth and your bloodstream I want to be one of the survivors! 

Robots? I'm dead serious. Everything at Goo-hole is roboticized. You realize that, don't you? If not, wake up and smell the crankcase oil and burnt wiring. Just see what happens when you live in China and can't access your email.

 

What do you do? Contact them? No. Text them? No. Twitter them? Of course not, they don't reply or care. Call them? good fugly luck, cowboy. DO THEY HAVE ANY CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT WHATSOVER?  No. They got billions and billions of dollars but their customer service takes the form of "volunteer" serfs who are hopefully gonna solve your problem online (or not). Where? AT A GOOGLE SITE YOU CAN'T EVEN ACCESS ANYWAY, WITHOUT PAYING A SINGLE EMPLOYEE to support their services in any way. Flippin' pony up, Sergie! What are you fools doing with the billions you're not even using anyway beyond sleeping on it at sub 3% interest rates while selling off our data habits?

Too bad sucka, you're using an Android based phone. So you can't even access the Google Pay store to add an App to help you. Lordy, can you say Hur durr, Herr Robots? (Nope, because you don't speak German). Get this: they already KNOW they don't need to serve their customers whatsoever with something as simple as one of those fake pictures of a slightly featureless smiling asian/latino operator hosting a Chatbot that says something like "I see you're having a conniption, is there something we can do to help you kill two more hours of your life?" NOPE. They KNOW they have you by the short curlies, so go pound sand. You're screwed, and they decide how deep the dark well plunges, not you. Talk about authoritarian! Trying to ask Google for help is like trying to ask the Ministry of Information Retrieval to give you a reimbursement for a mis-abducted citizen. Its just dode-code cold as a witch's tit over there, you'll find out. Human beings not welcome.

Sure, it's a free service. Sure, you might pay some money or sonething to try and upgrade your service. Sure, they dinged your Youtube channel and now won't pay out their small-time creators, and sure their cars are coming like it or not. So get onboard or get run over by so-called progress. They're just out to do no evil, though not really anymore wink wink. I get all that. I should be grateful they LET us give them solid user numbers and allow them to spy on us and do whatever else to bolster their market cap to the umpteen billions. I get it.

Yet my business philosophy has always been people over profits. Not Gewgs tho, nope.

Once long ago I actually tried buying a service from them (a webpage hosting and tools suite for my DNS and whatever else I needed to start a webpage), I really did. It was a nightmare of non-contact and confusing apps I didn't need. Even simple tasks seemed fairly un-intuitive and convoluted. Then I wanted to ask some simple questions and get some simple answers. So I started calling directly to their HQ, repeatedly navigating all kinds of voicemail trees until I got a secretary or janitor to pick up and promise a callback. Of course it never happened. So when I called again even more frustrated, their rep told me, "Well, sorry. We actually contract out to a third party provider for all that sutf. We just give you a crappy front-end to it, that's all. GO POUND SAND." That was back in 2014.

When I finally did reach a responsible human (because I'm the type who will make enough relentlessly angry phone calls to find out what the phone number of a mid-level exacutive really is and then harrass them until they finally answer the phone and talk to me human to human the way god intended), I told them we're breaking up. It was them, not me.

 

But they absolved themselves of any responsibility to cancel my service (which I never used). They couldn't or wouldn't help me transfer the DNS registration to another company (which had to be done, apparently). I had to do it all myself by calling their third party partners. Those guys claimed that they had no idea what I was talking about (since I hadn't used their first partner of choice, which I abhorred because they were using cheak sexy bikini girls to sell their service on TV at the time). Great. So I was stuck in web development hell. Google took my money easy enough, sure, but they didn't want to help me a whit after that. And when I cancelled within days after never even using the service they were totally blase about how to do any of it.

 

At least in the end I have to admit there was one woman I finally reached after days of trying (who told me she was located in Switzerland). She said she agreed that Google was less than warm and human about how they treat their customers and that she regretted it all for causing me about twenty mini-strokes over the course of a week of trying to cancel my paid for but not delivered services. Heck, you can probably Bing my rant from back then since it still exists on one of their crappy message boards too (except if you're in China, ha ha).

 

Right now I use Wix and their backend and front ends simply work ten times better. The Google service was absolute crap. Hell, even Wordpress was better and that's free open source!  (Though Wix does use some Google API or other 'handshake' anyway, so whatevs. Also, I'm stuck linking to youtube videos for my color inserts as well out of sheer lazyness and because there is not really a better alternative in China for that.

But do they care? F no, their algos show I'm not an "influencer" I guess. And even if I was, their excuse is always "bu bu but muh userbase is too big!" Right. Just a victim of success, so don't victim shame. Nevermind the customers and humans that use their services and give them their market cap. Well, is that a good business model for the long term? Sure, because... why not? How could any one person ever make them care when they OWN YOU and they think their customers exist merely to please them as datapoints to sell to others?

Don't believe me? Here's my most recent little anecdote. Recently in China I tried to sign on via VPN to my Google email accounts, but I made the mistake of selecting a Hong Kong springboard to get over the Chinese Firewall. Whoopsie-daisy, Gmail deigns to tell you that though you know your own password, tough tea. They don't recognize the device (despite it being the same laptop I always use). Prove you are who you say you are to their satisfaction. Why? No one else knows my password, allright Larry Page? But Larry sez: prove yourself to your overlords, it's for your own good we rob you of your agency.

Well, ok, I can do that because I am me (as far as I remember). So, why not get a text code sent your phone, asks Goobs brightly. BECAUSE I'M IN CHINA, that's why. My phone number now starts with a 1-86 country code prefix. In fact, like any expat, I am not even using my old phone at all because I'm now using a Chinese carrier like China Unicom. Thus, I can't even update the security phone number in my email security settings anyway since to do that I'D HAVE TO BE ABLE TO GET INTO MY ACCOUNT!  Catch, meet 22.

 

So after two hours of pounding sand, you've got Google glass, ha ha. (Perhaps the best joke of this entire piece, if you ask me). Well, why not just answer a few questions instead? Riddle me this: when is the exact month and year you first opened your Gmail account? Like me, you don't know either. Howabout your security questions? Surely those should let you in? HA HA, don't be rediculous. You will answer those correctly and give the confirm code they sent to your alternate email address yet still watch Gmail come back with this jem: "We were unable to verify this device. go put yams up your granny's ass."  At least, I think it said that. It was hard to read through my tears of bitter rage.

Goog knows better than you where you live. It knows more about you than you do yourself. You do do Goo vodoo, don't you? Well you better, because if not you're shut out. I literally had to ask my wife to pretend to be me at home on our home computer to log in once and tell the robots the same thing Sigur Ros always sings: "It's MEEEEE. It's MEEEEEE!"

Well, don't expect a solution anytime soon.

Kevin J Salveson is the founder of Ideas Million Dollar.

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