Ginger River Review
Inside the China Room with Jiang Jiang
China’s data regulation and economic recovery from COVID, a firsthand view from Robert Wu, CEO of BigOne Lab

China’s data regulation and economic recovery from COVID, a firsthand view from Robert Wu, CEO of BigOne Lab

The Ginger River Radio (GRR) podcast is available now.

Ginger River Review (GRR), the China-focused newsletter, now has its own voice in the form of the Ginger River Radio (GRR) podcast! On the podcast, you can listen to experts from all industries talking about the Chinese economy, society, technology, foreign policy and other things matter to the Chinese leadership and general public in China, with jokes and laughs in between.

This week on the first episode of the podcast, Jiang Jiang (JJ), the founder of GRR, chats with Robert Wu, CEO of BigOne Lab [They have a Substack that shares huge and unique on-the-ground data about China], one of the leading alternative data companies in China. Robert shared his firsthand insights into China's data economy, including the country's most recent data governance regulation, the country's economic recovery from COVID, the tech landscape, online and offline consumption trends, the challenges facing the Chinese data industry, and a comparison of data-driven businesses in China and the United States.

Robert Wu, CEO of BigOne Lab


6:46 - China's economic recovery from COVID

10:30 - How BigOne Lab collects data

14:27 - Is the online business recovering as fast as the offline?

17:42 - Changes in the tech landscape of China

24:16 - The popularity of the app Xiaohongshu, or “Little Red Book”

25:24 - The outdoor trends

28:03 - China's NEV sector & Tesla in China

34:05 - What the "20 measures" on data regulation and data economy mean for the data industry

40:35 - Challenges facing the China data industry

45:55 - Comparison of data-driven businesses in China and the United States

48:42 - The Three-Body Problem TV series


Robert Wu: The Three-Body Problem TV series directed by Yang Lei. The show premiered simultaneously in China and on the American streamer Rakuten Viki. The show is also available on Youtube.

A complete transcript of this podcast is available here:

JJ: Welcome to the Ginger River Radio podcast, a part of the GRR media outlet and your go-to podcast for anything about Chinese current events. I'm your host, Jiang Jiang, the founder of Ginger River Review, a newsletter that focuses on reporting the priorities of both the leadership and the general public in China and views you do not normally see from mainstream English language media. Our newsletter and podcasts cover a wide range of themes, including Sino-US relations, financial and commercial news, tech industry developments and Chinese cultural hot topics. Our newsletter subscribers include government officials, diplomats, think-tankers, professors, journalists, business decision-makers, analysts and other professionals with keen interest in China. If you haven't subscribed to our newsletter, go to and sign up to join our community of avid China-watchers. Now let's dive into our podcast show today.

The Chinese government has put out a new document that spells out 20 measures for beefing up its data use and data economy. According to the document, China will develop basic data systems in four areas, including data circulation and transactions, data income distribution that promotes fair compensation, data element governance, and centralized planning and policy support.

The policy's main focus is to promote the compliant, efficient flow and utilization of data, and to empower the real economy. The government defines data as a new factor of production and the bedrock of digitalization, networking, and intelligence and sees having solid data systems in place as crucial to the country's growth and security.

So, what does this all mean for the development of China's data industry? How is big data helping business-decision makers conduct in-depth analysis of business performance in China? Is there anything that alternative data-driven business intelligence can tell us about China's economic recovery from the pandemic?

Joining me on our podcast's first episode today to help us all better understand China’s growing data economy is Robert Wu, Wu Mianqing. Robert is not only a long-time friend of mine but also the CEO of one of the leading alternative data companies in China, named BigOne Lab 百观科技, which was founded in 2016. Robert and I went to the same middle school and high school. He then went to the Macalester College in the United States, and the University of Hong Kong. Robert had been working in investment, finance and tech sector for years before he became a leader of BigOne Lab. It's been an honor to witness his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur and thought leader in China's big data industry.

Hi Robert! Welcome to Ginger River Radio! And thank you so much for being the guest for our first episode!

Robert: Hi, Jiang Jiang! Hi, everyone! I feel so honored and excited to be the first guest in this podcast. And Jiang Jiang, I think you already know that I've also been a avid reader of your newsletter. I think it's kind of incredible job of filling the gap between the two worlds. A lot of high-quality contents are being translated and broadcast to the global audience. That's really some very interesting work that you've been doing. So I actually also have a question for you. I know you've been doing that newsletter for a long time. But when and how and why do you think about having this podcast?

JJ: Thank you, Robert. It's wonderful to have you. I've been thinking about creating a podcast show for a long time. In 2018, when I completed my MBA studies, I thought it would be cool to invite my classmates to share their post MBA career and life experiences.

So that was my initial idea. And even though I have switched to the media industry, I was still thinking about creating a podcast. Since I launched the Ginger River Review newsletter last year, I've got tons of new ideas for potential podcast topics. I realized that interviewing friends and experts from different industries would be a great way to share unique perspectives from China with the worldwide audience. With so many of my buddies and former classmates doing interesting things and speaking fluent English, it would be a shame not to share their stories.

Plus creating a podcast is just something that I'm really passionate about. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and spreading their knowledge and experiences to others. So I went ahead and launched this show. I'm stoked that you are my first guest. The first one is always the toughest. So I really appreciate your being here.

Robert: Yeah, thanks, likewise, I echo a lot of what you're having in mind - your dream and your goal. There's definitely a lot of gap to be filled between the two worlds. And it's definitely very important in the current environment. Your work is really much appreciated.

JJ: Yeah, the Chinese data industry is booming, and the plan of 20 steps for boosting the country's data use and data economy offers a wealth of fresh, important information. But before we go deeper into that, as China has declared major, decisive victory in COVID response, why don't we start with a review of China's economic recovery from the epidemic through alternative data-driven business intelligence, and Robert, could you share with us what your company is doing to help business-decision makers to transform the wide-ranging data into thought-provoking insights?

Robert: Yeah, that's definitely our day-to-day job and the key part of the value that we provide for our clients. As you just mentioned, we were actually founded about 6 years ago. And over the last few years, we've been really helping institutional investors, corporates around the world and also in China to keep track of data and to understand the trends and nuances that are coming out of the data.

It's has been an especially for the last few years because of all the COVID-related movements, trends and also the recent kind of easing down of COVID, our clients, our users have been paying more and more attention to insights from the data perspective. I feel really glad to just to share some of what we have, especially recently. So for example, among our various data sets, we've been covering a offline kind of restaurant and dining chains - a networks of at least 100,000 different locations. So actually, we've been able to look at the recovery offline in the dining space. And quite interestingly, this is tracking the kind of both COVID and post-COVID trends across the cities quite well.

For example, we've been seeing that offline consumption in the restaurants. For example, Beijing was actually among the first to kind of recover from their lowest point. So for example, in as early as late December, we've been seeing that the worst has already passed for Beijing. While in some other places where the COVID started later, the recovering point comes from around early to mid-January, around the Spring Festival period. And since late January and to the current point. We've been seeing a very robust recovery across the cities and across the regions, as recovery is reflected in offline dining space. And it seems there are sometimes double digits in MoM and week-over-week recovery. It's highly encouraging, actually, to see this type of recovery on the ground.

JJ: Just to be clear, how do you get the data from the offline catering, restaurants, dining sectors?

Robert: One of our key kinds of work in China is to understand the data quality and the types of data in different verticals, and transform them into research products and insight products that our client can understand. In this specific case, we've been working with these SaaS companies, SaaS providers that are serving the dining sector.

So for example, when you come to a restaurant in China, now in most of the cases you don't actually ask for waiters or waitresses for you to order. There's usually a QR code on the table and the clients scanner the QR code and input what they want. And this is basically a kind of electronic manual service. So for this kind of companies, they do get to record of the kind of item-to-item data. We kind of productize over that kind of data and we label them onto the different brands. We actually use that data to look at, say, beverages and beer brands and their performances. So it's been a really powerful tool to look at the offline consumption space.

Now, during besides the brand level data, we are also able to aggregate more macro-level data. We can provide a very frequent reading of the general kind of consumption space. So just to be clear, the data we are collecting are highly compliant. When we get the data, we don't know the name of the merchant, and we don't know the name of the individuals that are submitting any of the data. What we are getting is just totally anonymous and statistical data. And we call it exhaust data. Basically, it's the data that comes out of the pipeline of the normal work processes, but it's highly statistical. So that's also something that we are pretty good at - just to draw statistical insights from these highly complied data sets.

JJ: What is the difference between the data or the data tools your company is using or developing compared to the data company like Nielsen or some other more traditional data companies?

Robert: The one key differentiation is we are very China-focused. We are not limited to any one type of data sets. So for the companies you mentioned, some of them just focus on, say, the supermarkets data; some of the companies focus on e-commerce data. But for us, here at BigOne Lab, we take a kind of a full solution, kind of a total view of all the kind of data types. And we talk with all the data owners. And we try to transform them into actionable insights. So we have the catering data we talked about; we have e-commerce data; we have offline convenience store data; we have truck movement data; we have a lot of different data types to look at different industries in different sectors. And we are very much focused on China. So I think that's one a key area of difference.

JJ: Yeah. And you just mentioned that actually, the offline activities are resuming in China with the optimization of the epidemic control policies. So people resume their offline activities. But in this regard, has the development of some digital economy during the pandemic been affected or has the situation between both online and offline become better than before?

Robert: I can offer you insights both from the data and also from just my daily life, the anecdotes that I've experienced. Basically, what I've been seeing is a kind of all-channel recovery, both offline and online. Only in the offline space, besides the kind of the dining sector that we mentioned, if you look at traffic congestion, if you look at business travels, it's really in a kind of full-on mode. For example, after Spring Festival, I did a lot of travel, especially between Shanghai and Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. What I've been seeing is what I haven't seen for a long time, such a kind of high occupancy rate at whatever hotels that I'm staying or trying to stay. And even for budget hotels the prices are almost like double the previous years. It just really shows the Chinese people are really hardworking. And there's just a lot of people going back immediately to this kind of full-on and energized mode to work very hard and to spend hard as well.

On the other hand, if you look at the kind of online space, you thought, or you may assume that once the COVID eased, you thought the trend online will die down or ease down. But actually that's not what we've been observing. We've also been observing more active movements over there. So for example, for China's largest full delivery platform, Meituan, we had the data in January. And in January, actually we saw a double-digit growth as compared with, say, the February data of last year. The reason we compared this January with last February is because of the Spring Festival effect, because this year the Spring Festival fell mostly in January, while last year it fell mostly in February. So it's more like an apple-to-apple comparison in this way. But in any case, even in the Spring Festival, and even with some COVID complications in the beginning of January, we still see this robust growth. That really tells us that this is really a recovery across the spaces, not just focusing on offline or the online.

JJ: Did you see any changes in big tech competitive landscape in China after the epidemic?

Robert: Yeah, this is really the interesting part about the Chinese market. It's that there's always disruptors and there's always news in terms of the structural changes. Right now, the biggest theme along this is the competition in the kind of local services sector between the incumbent Meituan group and ByteDance group and the Douyin - certain local life services of ByteDance group 抖音本地生活. Since Douyin really focused on the life service sector. we've been seeing double-digit MoM growth every month. We've been tracking that. We've been tracking their local life services. We've been tracking the coupon sales and also Douyin's own delivery services. So, for example, compared with January to December, we see over 30 percent growth just in terms of the number of merchants on the network and also in terms of the number of sales of coupons.

To be sure this kind of growth is coming from a low base for Douyin. But because of all this huge traffic on Douyin platform, this growth is also not surprising to many people. So a lot of people are paying attention to the kind of the market position of Meituan. Because as you can understand, as a big listed company, there's a lot of investors of Meituan. So all of them are concerned about the competitive landscape. And actually, a lot of clients are approaching us to ask the question - what kind of long-term structural pressure that Douyin will have on Meituan's platform.

So we actually also can have some insights on that. Because even though the local life services is a new business, Douyin has been doing e-commerce services for a few years and been doing it really successful. We at BigOne Lab, we've been tracking Douyin's e-commerce about 3 years ago, as early as 3 years ago. We are comparing that with ... We witnessed the moment when Douyin was really taking aggressively the market shares from incumbent players like Alibaba, especially in some core segments like makeup and food and beverages, for example, and clothing. But just look at the experiences of this e-commerce landscape change. We also are observing that it's also very hard for Douyin to be to replace the Alibaba or other incumbents as the key, as a central player in the e-commerce field. And this is really because Douyin, they are essentially an entertainment group. They are an entertainment platform. There's a lot of live streaming and there's a lot of entertainment value involved with their model. So for certain categories like makeup, that makes sense. But for some categories like digital products, home appliances, it still tends to be a kind of small player.

So what I'm just saying is, different types of services are just catering to different kinds of demands. And it's not really about one player takes everything, winner-take-all kind of situation. It's really just that you have different services tailor-made for different groups of consumers. And on the one hand, it will definitely lower the expectation for the market potential of Meituan. But time and time again, we've been observing - this is one key thing about China - that Chinese market is really huge and is huge enough. And there are a lot of different lower-tier cities and different areas that offer huge growth to the different players. It actually doesn't make sense to have one company to take the whole market. It's just natural that there could be a diversity of services catering to diverse needs. And it's just totally natural and totally makes sense.

JJ: Yeah, I also want to discuss a little bit about another app. I don't know if you have any data about that. The app is called 小红书 Xiaohongshu, the "Little Red Book". I think that app is also experiencing robust growth during the epidemic.

Robert: Yeah, definitely. This is really one of the key beneficiaries of the epidemic. But also, just in terms of user growth, in terms of the content growth right now, there has been a trend in China that a lot of people, when they look for something (they look for a tip or look for advice or look for what kind of food they want to cook or what kind of places they want to travel to), Xiaohongshu has really taken kind of the elite spot in terms of the go-to place. It's almost like a search engine now, because it's just so much good content over there. And that content kind of snowballed during the height of the COVID. For example, there are segments like cooking and homeliving. And for these segments, they are just attracting a lot of good contents when you are staying at home and under lockdown at home. So definitely, it's a huge thing right now.

JJ: And some people compare Xiaohongshu with Instagram in America. Do you think that they are similar? I think, actually, it seems that Xiaohongshu is developing more functions or providing a wider range of information to the users.

Robert: Yeah, it's actually not the same thing. I mean a lot of things now are when you say "this is the Instagram of China", "that is the Youtube of China". All this kind of talk missed the point now because China has been already grown so sophisticated, that a lot of the successful businesses in successful platforms in China are pretty much made for China. So on Instagram, a lot of that is about kind of showing off and help you have a kind of social image. But on Xiaohongshu, people just ... as you said, that there's a lot of good contents there. People search for information and they search for real practical information that helps their life and makes their life better. So it's actually totally different things now.

JJ: And during the epidemic, many people turned to outdoor activities such as camping, frisbee, and skiing as a way to stay active. But now that things are returning to normal, I am wondering - how's people's passion for these activities now? Have they become an integral part of people's lives?

Robert: Yeah, outdoor activities is also a key beneficiary of the COVID. We see all categories of outdoor products and services that have been growing exponentially, you know, camping products, tents, outdoor shoes, outdoor clothing. Interestingly, when you look at January and recent data, these categories are still growing and among the fastest growing categories across all the categories. That kind of tells us that the disruptions, the kind of the changes in consumer behaviors, in consumer mindset, caused by COVID in this specific area have been ... It seems more likely that it's more structural than just short-term changes. Many people are now adapting to a life of spending more time outdoors, getting close to nature and doing a lot of these outdoor activities. So this could be a big, fundamental, long-term impact of COVID in China.

JJ: And I think you mentioned that your companies have clients. Can you tell us more about what type of clients they are?

Robert: Definitely. We serve institutional investors, including both hedge funds and also China's domestic mutual funds. We also serve private equity and venture capital funds to help them find potential opportunities. We also serve corporate clients. Most of the internet companies in china, most of them are our clients. We also serve a lot of consumer goods companies in China. So it's a diverse client base.

JJ: I believe that communicating with the clients also may get you valuable insights or information about the industry. And I want to discuss a little bit about one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving industries in China, the China's electric vehicle sector. As subscribers of our newsletter know, we've been keeping a close eye on this sector. Recently, Miao Wei, the deputy director of the Economic Committee of the National Committee of China's top political advisory body, made a statement in a panel, stating that China's new energy cars are not oversupplied. So, what is the latest trend in China's new energy vehicle sector according to your observation? Are there any new developments that we should be aware of?

Robert: Yeah. So it's really a hot sector. I don't know any in institutional investor who is not looking at this sector. And interestingly, you mentioned that how we interact with our clients is also quite revealing to understand the trends in a sector. And it's especially so in this sector. In the very beginning, like, say, a year ago or something, when Nio, Li Auto, and all these new brands are getting to the capital markets and starting from a low base of growth, people mostly just pay attention to very direct metrics, which is the delivery of the vehicles. The more vehicles delivered, the more market shares, so potentially then you have a bigger mind share in the consumers' mind. So that's one stage when all people pay attention to this kind of data for a long time.

And then after a certain time, the penetration rate of electric vehicle has been growing. And actually right now, China has one of the highest penetration rate of electric vehicle sales in the whole world. So the market became a little bit more mature. And then from the institutional clients' perspective, they are now paying more and more attention, not just to delivery, but also to the order. So that's the action: pre-delivery, the preferences of consumers of different brands that could be indicative of actual delivery, actual sales. And now we have been even seeing more advanced signals and also more advanced needs. So for example, many people are questioning and wondering, even before a consumer makes an order, what people are thinking about the brands? What are their talks? What are their opinions of different brands, different models?

Now there have been clients asking us, what's our perspective on it? Once we've consumed and analyzed all the online discussions and offline discussions about a certain brand, a model, which brand is really winning out and getting the best reviews? So we've been doing that. For example, we've been looking at the comments about certain aspects of of a brand like, say, the quality of the cars. We've been looking at the negative and positive views of different brands across this metric and to compare them. So I think the lesson of that is that people now are paying more and more attention to all these nuances. It's not just about brute sales. It's more about differentiation now.

As the market are inviting more and more players, it's getting more crowded definitely than, say, a few years ago. So both the investors as well as the corporate themselves are right now, their key question is not just growth, but in which area the consumers need and how to differentiate. So that's really a change that is just happening over the last few years, but we are already seeing that the market has already been more mature and paying more attention to the consumers and becoming more tailor-made and becoming more kind of customized.

JJ: Do you have any information about how Tesla is doing in China compared to domestic car makers?

Robert: It's really a disruptor for the Chinese market. Actually, the explosive growth of Chinese EV market is almost at the same time when the first car rolled out of the Shanghai factory of Tesla. Right now Tesla is still a leader in many aspects, and is also a disruptor because of their kind of unorthodox pricing strategies and the quality of their product. So it has really set up a good example for the whole market. But we are seeing that more domestic brands are catching up. And it's not like Tesla is controlling the whole market and actually we are seeing more and more domestic brands taking more shares as the technology gap becomes lower and lower and the price gap is actually quite competitive for many of the domestic brands. So thanks to Tesla. We are thankful for Tesla, but the market is a very diverse market.

JJ: Those are all great points. And now I want to go back to the 20 measures on boosting the country's data use and data economy. As a professional in the data sector, how do you see the importance of this policy? As we mentioned that the policy's main focus is to promote the compliant, efficient flow and utilization of data, and to empower the real economy.

Robert: So this is definitely an area that, as a market participant in the data industry, is an area that we care a lot about. We did a very thorough reading of not only the 20 measures, but also all the previous regulatory documents [GRR's note: check a policy analysis of the "20 measures" by BigOne Lab]. This is how we think about this: The whole data related regulation or government policies really started just a few years ago. It kind of progressed in different stages.

So in the first stage, it's about setting up a kind of overarching legal framework. Before, a few years ago, there is no law about, say, personal data protection in China. There's no law about data security in China. So it's been really the work of the national Internet information office [GRR’s note: It refers to the Cyber Administration of China] to set up this whole framework. One key area is the personal data protection and the law for that, the law for personal data protection. A few years ago, when you were in this market, you had this impression that probably, Chinese people don't care about personal data. There's just really no such thing about protection of personal data. But then problems happened. Bad people are using personal data to do some bad stuff and profiting from that without personal permission. That's where the society comes to the view that personal data is important. You have to have a legal framework for that. And now, what you're saying is, now it's been...just in a span a few years, we've come from oblivious to personal data to the point that we are very sensitive about that. And there's a lot of policies and regulations in place. So I think this is very positive. You need to have a fundamental framework, a legal framework to set up the boundaries, to set up the rules. And that's the first stage. And China has kind of completed this first stage from nothing to a generally robust framework.

And then we are now actually in the second stage. I think this is something that is less appreciated around the world about China, that the Chinese government is not just here to regulate the data industry, is actually also seeing the data industry and what we call the data factor as a key factor of production and as a key sector of economy. Once you have a kind of rule framework in place, then we're not moving to the stage where supportive policies to the data industry are being rolled out. And the 20 measures have been rolled out under this kind of context. If you paid attention, 20 measures were actually not proposed by the Internet office [GRR’s note: It refers to the Cyber Administration of China], which is a key regulator of the data internet industry, but by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) [GRR’s note: The draft of the 20 measures on data use and data economy is led by NDRC]. And that government institution is there to promote economy, to promote industries. So it's really about now we have a mature data industry. We want to make it more prosperous. And we want to have ways to generate more value for the society. So this is, I think, a very interesting stage that we are in now. I feel really excited to be in this stage of the industry.

JJ: Could you be more clear about that? I mean, explain to the listeners the types of data property rights, because it's a new thing to some people. And I believe that people want to have a better understanding about what property rights they have and what data property rights they have.

Robert: This is a very good question. When you have this legal framework and when you see data as a production factor and something of value, then you definitely can not avoid who owns the data. But it's also quite complex, because data is not a physical object - it's not a kind of piece of land. It's not just like one thing there. The value of data depends on how you use it. Data itself has no value. You cannot live in data, you cannot eat data, right? You cannot really like move places with data. It's a very intangible thing and depends on how you use it. And it has different values in different segments, different ways, different scenarios. So the general direction now in China is not to define data as a static thing. There is really the ownership property rights, the ownership rights of data, but also there are the rights of usage, the rights of making this thing more valuable. So basically, the general principle is any player that can provides an extra, differentiated, social and economic value out of data, enjoys a share of the rights. I think that's very good. That's an open-minded and more realistic view of property rights in data industry in China. It's very helpful for all kinds of market participants.

JJ: And what challenges do the data industry might face in China?

Robert: There are some. Even with the all the regulations and with all the supportive policies, there are definitely challenges we are facing. One thing I can think of immediately is, a lot of areas are still not defined, the grey areas. For these areas, it is even kind of a gray area around the world. There is a reason that data is such a kind of frontier of all the regulations really around the world. It is just a lot of undefined areas.

For example, the kind of ownership of publicly available data. For example, a lot of e-commerce companies in China, they are open to everyone to use. And on their platform, they are showing many data, much data like, say, the number of sales for different products, the prices. You know, all these are publicly available. Each and everyone has access to it, and they're not differentiated. You don't have to pay to get this data. But then who owns that data? Is that the property of, say, the internet companies themselves? Some people like us will argue back that, no, because it's publicly available, so everyone can have access to it. There could be some potential for argument over there.

But on the other hand, we could also argue that this data actually doesn't belong to anyone, except the original consumer, the individuals. Their action created this data, right? You have this space where there are a lot of stakeholders that could have legitimate claims to the data. So that's the key challenges here. There's no set rules. There's not one rule that can make everyone happy. To me, personally, I am of the view that data actually belongs to every individual participant in the industry, and especially belongs to the every individuals, every consumers. At the end of the day, all data comes from each individual's activity. In an ideal world that I can imagine, everyone, through their online footprints, are generating data, but then at the same time, they are also able to extract value from their own data by controlling the access to their own data and selling their own data based on their own intention and decision. And that's as opposed to the current model where a few companies are kind of centralizing all the data from the users for free and profit over that. I think the ideal world, the ideal model that I've just described, is the way to go, and we are moving closely. We're moving more and more to that direction.

Also, there's another problem about, say, the pricing of data, especially also a very highly complex issue. In China, a lot of places are setting up the so-called data exchanges supported by the government. But data exchanges is something that's really complex. It's not the typical kind of exchanges that you imagine like stock exchanges. Again, a data is not one item, one clearly defined item that can be freely traded. The data, as I just said, just has different values in different scenarios. Looking this way, it has this kind of value look; use it in that way, you have that kind of value. It's really hard to have a real exchange in the real sense for data. So more often, what you're saying is, all these exchanges, so-called exchanges, are really just like a listing place for different kinds of data types. But actual transactions are still taken kind of offline. So when it comes to the pricing of the data, it's a very opaque market. And it actually takes a lot of people, a lot of companies like us, like BigOne Lab to really understand this and to bridge the gap and to make it work. And pricing really comes out of the actual underground transactions that are taking place. So it's really hard to have an exchange in the normal sense in order for the value to be generated.

JJ: And how do you compare the data-driven business intelligence in the United States and in China?

Robert: I think overall, the West has a kind of enviable position in terms of how they innovate and utilize the data. There's a lot of ways that are just not possible in China. For example, in the United States, a common way to have data is to create an email app where you get all the email receipts from the users. And you can use them anonymously. You don't sell the data of each individual person. We call it personally identifiable information or PII. You don't sell that. You aggregate them, you do a statistical analysis, and you provide valuable insights about any industry. That's something that's really cool. And that's really because over there, people already have a strong kind of rule and a strong kind of understanding of data protection in place. And that just helps us to enable these kinds of innovation.

While in China, we are really at the earliest stage of this. I we just just it's barely a few years passed before we had our first data protection law, right? So it's really at the early stage. And right now, because of all these misuses of personal data in the first place, now we are kind of moving in the direction of a heavy regulation, and just to control the previous rampant misuses of personal data. But the side effect of that is that people are becoming oversensitive to data protection. There are areas that could be compliant and should be compliant. But then people, when they think about data, when they talk about data, they just instinctively think of that as something untouchable. There are a lot of innovations that could not happen because people still have this over-sensitive a mindset. I'm hopeful about that. I'm hopeful about innovation in the field, but it will take time. It will take time for the industry to get more mature. And people are becoming more understanding of the nuances of the boundaries. At that time, we will have a more prosperous industry around data.

JJ: Yeah, everything takes time. All right. Let’s move on to recommendations. We invite every guest of our podcast to recommend something to our listeners. It can be a book, a movie, a TV series, a podcast, or even a video game. So Robert, what do you have for us today?

Robert: Yeah. So right now, if you ask me this question, I definitely will recommend the TV series of The Three-Body Problem. I really like this show. It's really tackling a very difficult subject. People tend not to believe that this masterpiece, Three-Body Problem, can be translated and transformed into, say, a TV series or a movie. But I think this TV series really has done an incredible job. And I think one thing that's really interesting is, that in the books, there are a lot of nuances, there are a lot of emotions that's not really well captured by the book. But the TV series go a step further in terms of setting up this environment, setting up this kind of psychological and emotional context. I love the screenplay. I love how they treat their kind of cameras. And also the music is a big highlight. There's a lot of original music. It really shows to the world that... It's similar with, say, the movie Wandering Earth and Wandering Earth 2. It kind of shows to the world that China has become quite mature and advanced in terms of this hard sci-fi genre and in producing movies and TV shows about that. I'm really excited about this.

JJ: Yeah, I agree with you. And I have seen some, I think, three or four episodes of The Three-Body Problem, the TV series, and it is a well-made play. I'm also a big fan of The Three-Body Problem. I read the book, listened to the audio book, and watched the two animation series of it. I have a question for you. What was your favorite part or character in The Three-Body Problem?

Robert: There are really a lot. But I'll have to admit the moment that really strikes me - and spoiler alert - is in the second part of the trilogy, The Dark Forest, when that little waterdrop just destroys the hope, everything of human civilization. And that's where I have all those goosebumps when I read the books. That's where the author Liu Cixin really did a great job in describing the kind of despair, the kind of huge astronomical level of gap between civilizations. That's really magnificent. It's conveyed very convincingly. I really love that part.

JJ: Yeah, I also love that part, astronomical is the key word. And my favorite part is how a character named Singer (歌者), a high Intelligence alien creature, uses a bidirectional foil (二向箔) to destroy the whole solar system. That part just shows how humans are so small in this big and vast universe.

Robert: Yeah, I cannot really wrap my mind around that thing. It sometimes occurs to me that you have to have some kind of PhD degree to really understand this book. But that's...yeah...there's a lot of these kinds of amazing moments in the trilogy.

JJ: Yeah, so check out The Three-Body Problem TV series if you haven't. So Robert, thank you once again. That was just terrific. Thank you for being our first guest. It's an honor to have you here. I hope one day we can maybe co-host some of this show, because I believe your expertise will definitely help international listeners to better understand China.

Robert: Thanks, I will be very honored to be able to co-host, definitely.

JJ: Thank you, Robert. Really enjoyed having you here.

Robert: Thank you. Thank you, everyone.

Robert: Thanks, I will be very honored to be able to co-host, definitely.

JJ: The Ginger River Radio podcast is a part of the GRR media outlet. Our show is produced and edited by me, Jiang Jiang, Yu Liaojie from Shanghai International Studies University, and Jia Yuxuan from Beijing Foreign Studies University. For cooperation, investing or feedback, email me directly at, or just give us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts. We would be delighted if you would recommend our podcast or newsletter to others if you find it helpful. Thank you for listening and see you next time. Take care.

Ginger River Review
Inside the China Room with Jiang Jiang
Inside the China Room with Jiang Jiang is a podcast show presented by Ginger River Radio (GRR). It is your go-to podcast for in-depth coverage of Chinese current events. It covers a diverse range of topics, including Sino-US relations, financial and commercial news, tech industry developments, and hot cultural trends. Jiang Jiang (JJ), founder of the Ginger River Review (GRR) newsletter, is joined by various experts to analyze and decode the priorities of both Chinese leadership and the general public.
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Jiang Jiang
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