TOKYO -- The Chinese information technology industry is flexing its muscles, having produced such international standouts as e-commerce company Alibaba.
China's IT industry dates from the 1990s, following the entry of big overseas players such as Microsoft of the U.S. At first, Chinese companies relied on their foreign partners for growth. Not anymore. Now Chinese government is promoting its national champions, going so far as to squeeze out foreign rivals in its drive to nurture domestic technologies and products.
On our own
On May 7, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid a surprise visit to Beijing's Zhongguancun district, known as China's Silicon Valley. His itinerary included a stop at Beijing Lagou Network Technology, a startup that two years ago launched Lagou.com, a job-matching website specializing in the IT industry.
The company is on the sixth floor of an aging building. The walls are grubby; cardboard boxes and other detritus are piled in the darkened hallway. The company's founder and CEO, Ma Delong, 31, told Li that the company, which has a staff of a little over 100, helped some 1.5 million people find new jobs last year. Li, who is committed to administrative streamlining, seemed impressed and said the government needs to learn from the company.
Lagou.com's growth stems from its vast trove of job information on 20,000 Chinese IT firms. In Zhongguancun, home to company incubators that charge prospective startups nothing to use offices, venture business are springing up like mushrooms. Demand for IT workers is brisk, and there is no shortage of young people who want to pursue careers at growing companies.
"I really wanted to work at a Chinese company," said a 29-year-old man from Beijing. In March, he left an American software maker and became a manager at a big Chinese Internet company, attracted by the high pay. He said his monthly salary doubled to 50,000 yuan ($8,061). "I used to want to work at high-paying foreign companies. But now big Chinese companies pay more. Foreign companies are a steppingstone for me to get good treatment," he said.
Competition for talent is increasingly fierce in China's IT business, particularly among large companies like search engine operator Baidu and Alibaba. It is common for those in management to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Putting the heat on
Last winter, U.S. semiconductor maker Qualcomm was suddenly visited by Chinese antitrust authorities and threatened with an investigation. In February, the government slapped the chipmaker with a 6.088 billion yuan fine, concluding the company had pushed its high-speed mobile communications technology on Chinese manufacturers and garnered unduly large royalties.
"Chinese people used to rely on us to teach them [about] technology, but times have changed," said a Qualcomm insider.