How’s Your Mandarin?

Just to follow up on my column about China’s
economic and technological ascendance
, here’s a
statistic that should get you thinking: Twenty percent of the world’s broadband subscribers are Chinese, getting their
connection from either China Telecom, the world’s largest provider with 55
million subscribers, or China Unicom, with 40 million. The bronze medal lands
in Japan,
where NTT serves about 18 million customers.

How's Your Mandarin?In the more fragmented American market, Comcast and AT&T
are tops, with Time Warner Cable and Verizon following. They’ll never catch China, though.
While broadband is a mature market here, the growth rates in China are still
staggering, with both China Telecom and China Unicom adding 9 million users
a year. That’s as much as Verizon’s entire broadband customer base.

What does it all mean? While it may be hard for you to move
to Beijing and
become a Web developer who speaks fluent Mandarin, you can certainly keep your
eye on American tech and Internet companies who plan to tap into the vast Chinese market. Assuming, of course, the Chinese government allows it. As
Google has learned, it’s important to watch your step in the Middle

— Don Willmott