by Xinhua writers Liu Chang, Li Rong
BEIJING, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The minute when Drozdov Evgeny tried MIUI, an android firmware modified by the Chinese smartphone maker of Xiaomi, the 28-year-old Russian young man simply fell for it offhandedly.
Evgeny now works for a Russian software company. In 2011, fascinated by Xiaomi's produce, he launched his own online forum to share the latest versions of MIUI ROMs with other fans all across Russia. The Chinese company has now designated his cyber community, which at present has 11,000 registered members, as its official fans' forum in the country.
In fact, Xiaomi, as well as many other Chinese high-tech companies, have been supported by the Belt and Road Initiative in recent years as they tap into foreign markets and see their competitiveness snowballed worldwide, especially in the developing countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Together, they have not only offered customers worldwide both quality and more affordable alternatives to end-products by global smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung, but have also been promoting other modern-day information technologies that can change the way of life for local people for the better.
NOT JUST SMARTPHONES
Apart from Russia, Xiaomi has over the past few years achieved notable market success and become increasingly popular in other countries. The company ranks the third in smartphone sales in both Indonesia and Ukraine, according to Lei Jun, chairman and CEO of Xiaomi.
In India, another market Xiaomi has invested very heavily, the company released late last month a new model of smartphone called Redmi note 4A. So far, its monthly sales have surpassed 1.5 million. In a recent interview with Xinhua, Lei said the most important advantage the products of his company boast is their higher level of cost efficiency to the international big name competitors.
"In the past, only those with medium or high incomes were able to enjoy the high-tech products, a scenario we hope to change, and we are working to enable more people to have access to the latest technologies," Xiaomi's Senior Vice President Wang Xiang told Xinhua.
According to Lei, Xiaomi stresses very much on research and development of technologies and innovation. He noted that the company filed for over 7,000 patents globally last year alone on technologies developed on its own.
He also said Xiaomi is working hard on two fronts now. One is to attempt breakthroughs on core technologies like chips, while the other is to strike cross-licensing deals with the world's telecommunication giants like Microsoft and Qualcomm so as to avoid patent disputes in its ever expanding foreign adventures.
Besides smartphones, Xiaomi has also been promoting its wearable fitness-tracking devices like smart wristbands. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), Xiaomi has been the world's second largest wearable device vendors for two consecutive years since 2015.
The IDC also reported that Mi band 2, Xiaomi's latest smart bracelet, is the highest selling heart rate sensing fitness tracker in India in the fourth quarter of 2016.
"The essence of the Belt and Road initiative lies in the fact that it has promoted cooperation and collective development of the countries on its routes," said Wang.
It has improved the environment for the growth of the economies and enterprises, he said, adding that Xiaomi has benefited from the initiative and forged harmonized and stable partnership for win-win result with the firms covered by the initiative.
KNITTING INFORMATION NETWORKS
Meanwhile, Chinese companies, especially those that are hosted and supported by Zhongguancun, a high-tech hub in the Chinese capital city, are also trying to share with other countries their expertise in telecommunication and information technologies.
In 2015, China's DaTang Telecom signed a cooperation agreement with Ecuador's Yachay City of Knowledge to build a 4G TD-LTE laboratory.
The 4G TD-LTE is China's homegrown fourth generation telecommunications technology. The latest GSMA Intelligence data show that in Latin America, 4G connections more than doubled in 2016, up from 51 million a year earlier, suggesting a fast growing market demand.
According to the pact, Datang is going to prepare the Ecuadorian side in its efforts to apply the 4G telecommunication networks in the country and train for it a team of professionals.
Also, Beijing Xinwei Technology Group -- which is engaged in the customized solution provision for telecommunications carriers, vendors, service suppliers and component manufacturers -- has in recent years cooperated with telecommunications operators in Cambodia, Russia, Ukraine and Tanzania, in the capacity of a provider of technologies and equipment for public networks there.
Apart from that, Sida Times -- a Beijing-based TV network provider -- now has become the fastest growing digital TV operator in Africa. It is now doing business in 20 African nations like Kenya and South Africa with more than eight million subscribers.
NEW DAWN FOR E-COMMERCE & FINANCE
With the widespread use of mobile telecommunications technologies, a new age for electronic commerce is also dawning and some Chinese firms are spearing ahead.
Jack Ma, founder of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba group, made a proposal earlier this year in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur for setting up an e-commerce hub in the Southeast Asian country.
With the plan, Alibaba seeks to work with the Malaysian government in developing a digital free trade zone in the country so as to empower local small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and to boost regional free trade. It is also part of Ma's efforts to promote the idea of building the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP).
Tang Joo Shen is the sales director of an instant coffee manufacturing firm based in Malaysia's southern city of Melaka, known as Aik Cheong Coffee. The business, born in 1955, is one of most popular local coffee brand. Aik Cheong Coffee sells its products in a dozen of countries, like China, the United States, Canada, as well as other European and Asian nations.
However, Tang complained that trade protectionism has in recent years been a big challenge for his company, with some countries slapping up to 30 percent tariffs on coffee products. He believes that the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) can help refresh the global trading system that fits this era of the Internet, which will make it easier for the developing economies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get better access to global markets.
Also in Beijing's Zhongguancun, IZP Technologies, a group company of Internet cross-border trade and big data, is also using modern-day science and technology to serve international traders from Europe to Africa and to the Middle East in a smarter way.
The company mainly focuses on offering a payment system to allow direct settlement between the Chinese yuan and local currency and a Visa-like payment card that also promises lower fees. The IZP is also setting up a "big data" platform with data mining capabilities claiming to offer up to date information.
TOWARD COMMON DEVELOPMENT
The Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was brought up by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the aim of building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes. So far, China has invested more than 50 billion U.S. dollars into the program. It has won support from over 100 countries and international bodies, and more than 40 of them have signed cooperation agreements with China.
The Zhongguancun Administrative Committee -- the government's administrative organ that oversees the development of the high-tech hub -- has for years played a key role in encouraging Chinese technology companies to explore foreign marketplace within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Zeng Xiaodong, international business director of the committee, told Xinhua that technology cooperation has been one of his organization's priorities to achieve win-win outcomes.
As Xiaomi is selling cell phones in Indonesia, it is also building factories there. It also plans to 100 percent localize production of its smartphone products in the Southeast Asian nation as of 2017. Its investment moves would mean lots of job opportunities for the local population.
In Ecuador, DaTang's program is also going to help with the nation's job creation and to upgrade its industries. Ultimately, the project will play a positive role in promoting telecommunications development both in the country and in the South America continent.
In his speech at the World Economic Forum in the skiing resort of Davos, Switzerland, Xi said the initiative originated in China, but it has delivered benefits well beyond its borders.
By improving infrastructure inter-connectivity, the Belt and Road creates a better base for economic development in many countries, said Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Chairman Hans-Paul Buerkner at the forum earlier this year.
Specifically, "it will bring more people together, providing more opportunities to have jobs, as more small and medium-sized enterprises alongside are expected to be established," said Buerkner.