OPINIONS Observer: Knowledge economy is booming in China

OPINIONS

Observer: Knowledge economy is booming in China

By Dong Feng | People's Daily app

19:34, December 08, 2018

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Beijing (People's Daily) - It’s that time again, people are ushering in the freezing winter days with participation in various year-end get-togethers or annual parties if you like. I’m not an exception. My Saturday morning was committed to a management-themed conference. After months of observation, I am convinced that Chinese are forging the concept of lifelong learning. 

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Photos: VCG

My assumption was no one would like to get out of a warm and cozy apartment on a Saturday morning as the temperature plummeted 8 degrees below zero with howling winds, to attend a knowledge sharing session. Turned out I was wrong, again. The event got full house and I hardly noticed any attendee who was late. 

The training organization is targeting all project managers, offering knowledge updates. Project management is a business discipline for those at the middle management level in companies. When it comes to knowledge sharing or training, every attendee is earnest with the session. The reason is simple and obvious, professionals are thirsty for further development and training could be the right approach to achieve that. 

2017 saw the paying to learn industry in China expand to around 4.9 billion yuan ($712.7 million), almost tripling for the year-on-year growth, with 2016 marked as ‘the year of paying to learn, because people who would like to pay a premium to learn numbered almost 50 million. The market scale is expected to reach 23.5 billion yuan by 2020, according to a report on China's paid training market released in mid-May by Beijing-based consultancy iResearch.

Knowledge economy which refers to the use of knowledge to generate tangible and intangible values, is undoubtedly booming with players springing up, such as audio sharing platform Himalaya FM, Zhihu, a Quora-like question-and-answer website in China, popular Chinese science website Guokr.com, knowledge-sharing platform Fenda app, knowledge service platform qlchat.com and knowledge community tool, xiaomiquan.com. 

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In the first quarter of 2017, the value chain of membership payment for learning (excluding online education) was worth around 12.5 billion yuan. 

Meanwhile, with the rise of self-produced content in social media, all free contents appear to be overload for users, who feel that time is rather wasted without much gain while exploring the web. Free learning has been dubbed as a burden. On the other hand, the business model of paying to learn has emerged as scarce product. As a result, the learning trend has driven platforms to charge by various kinds of functions and membership. Thus, it will be unfair to give all credit to development of technology, rather the demand is growing. 

The booming knowledge economy reflects the Chinese middle class and those to-be middle class are keen to develop their career path through learning. The emergence of knowledge service sector will directly disrupt the existing industries of education, publishing, advertising and even consulting services, and ultimately transform them to a brand-new value chain. 

After all, the keen learners are not alone. In the past months, when I have strolled to the nearest mall and checked out the latest books in a chain bookstore, there are always family readers: parents are glued to just-in books, grandparents are enjoying art and culture while sipping coffee with kids playing with toys in their own dedicated corner. Such sights seem to show that the new era of lifelong learning in China has arrived.

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