Xiang Zikui, a woman living in Shenzhen who works for the games department at one of China’s biggest internet companies, said she was shocked to hear about the large-scale layoffs at iQiyi, often likened to is China’s Netflix. The Baidu-owned company, which operates one of the mainland’s largest video-streaming platforms, is said to have cut more than 30% of its workforce in several high-cost divisions earlier this month, in a wave of layoffs expected to continue through the Lunar New Year. South China Morning Post Reportedly, laid-off employees are offered compensation based on their years of service, plus a month’s salary.
Internet companies are no longer young Chinese people’s first choice for work
Neither Baidu nor iQiyi have been directly targeted by Beijing’s year-long tightening of control over domestic tech giants, but job cuts reflect an overall working environment harder for internet companies, especially in light of tighter regulations, more content monitoring and zero tolerance for monopolies.
“The layoffs can have a lot to do with the overall industry trends. There are strict regulations on many things these days, including games, online advertising and everything related to privacy. This makes me feel like the tech industry may have hit a bottleneck,” said Xiang Zikui.
The “mood change” in China’s tech industry is real and sudden after a decade of spectacular growth, thanks to lax regulation and easy funding. For highly-skilled tech workers from the country’s most elite universities, who were once contested by tech giants for high salaries, uncertainty about the future is growing. .
“There are many people around me who say that internet companies are no longer people’s first choice for work. Some people now want to work for state-owned companies or take the civil service exam,” said Xiang Zikui.
Less than half of the employees at the country’s internet companies hope to receive bonuses by the end of the year, according to a survey conducted by China’s job search platform Lagou. Another newly released Lagou report shows that the demand for talent from major internet companies in November 2021 has decreased by 26% compared to the same period last year.
Reviewing career orientation
Although many employees of Big Tech South China Morning Post Interviewers said that their day-to-day work has not been affected too much by government regulations, but some are rethinking their future career direction. Feng Xing, a software engineer in Chengdu who works at a state-owned company, said many of his new colleagues who joined his company came from big internet companies.
According to Feng Xing, a contributing factor to the trend of job transfer is the legendary ceiling age of 35 in China’s internet industry, where people over 35 are often shunned by employers and are at high risk of being fired. during cost cuts, unless they’ve been promoted to senior management. Kelly Huang, now in her 30s, who used to work at one of China’s top live-streaming platforms, says Beijing’s regulatory scheme has almost snuffed out her desire to enter the streaming industry. people’s live-streaming, it’s a stark contrast to when she joined the company a few years ago, when the possibilities in the field seemed limitless.
In recent months, live-streaming has been repeatedly criticized by the Chinese government for allowing the dissemination of vulgar content, shady views and reviews, as well as dubious pricing practices between users. top influencers. Just this week, “streaming queen” Huang Wei, more commonly known as Viya, received a record 1.34 billion yuan (about $210 million) fine from the local tax bureau for tax evasion.
“I wouldn’t say there has been an employee exodus at the company at this point. But it seems everyone is trying to do that,” said Kelly Huang. The deteriorating outlook for the internet industry wreaked havoc on morale, prompting Kelly Huang to eventually leave her old job and join a hardware company.
Internet users are also affected
Not only workers are affected by Beijing’s “iron punch” in the technology sector, internet service users also have to modify their behavior to comply with the new regulation. In August 2021, Chinese regulators banned children under 18 from playing games for more than three hours a week, along with a decision to freeze the licensing of new video games.
The Beijing government has repeatedly stated that it wants to prevent gaming addiction and wants to promote positive content among the nation’s youth. However, for Eason Shan, a 14-year-old teenager living in Zhejiang province, it was no different than having to change his lifestyle. “After a certain amount of time, I can no longer play the game. Of course we were very angry when the policy was announced, we didn’t want to accept it but we had no choice,” Eason Shan said.
To get around the limit imposed by the government, some children have tried to use various workarounds, such as using a parent’s account. Evan Liang, a 14-year-old high school student, said China’s stricter regulations did not affect his gaming habits much. “Most kids have access to adult accounts, and so do I. People secretly signed up for adult accounts by stealing and using their parents’ IDs.”
The mainland’s management had anticipated that and put it in the spotlight. This year, the government repeatedly convened game companies to make laws on enforcing restrictions on gaming and preventing such behaviour.
China has also stepped up surveillance of online content. Xiuli Zhou, an internet user in Shanghai, said that she feels the control of online content has been tightened significantly this year. As an avid user of the social media platform Douban, a free forum to gather and discuss movies, books and current affairs, Xiuli Zhou finds it increasingly difficult to communicate with others after the background. This platform suspends reply function in discussion groups.
Earlier this month, Douban, along with 105 other apps, was removed from app stores, for alleged data privacy violations after being fined by regulators for “unlawful release of information.” France”. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) also summoned and fined Weibo for repeatedly allowing “information prohibited by law”. Reportedly, Weibo was fined a total of 44 times between January and November 2021, with a total fine of 14.3 million yuan.
Zhou’s account on Weibo has been banned from posting for no apparent reason. “As a result, I had to constantly censor myself,” Zhou said. She revealed that she has to use pinyin or the Latin alphabet to write Mandarin, one of many methods Chinese netizens use to bypass online censorship. “It was a big problem. It feels very uncomfortable.”
Censorship issues aside, Zhou thinks that many of the policies regulating the internet industry this year are out of good will and will enhance the industry’s development. However, there needs to be more clarity about red lines and what internet users can do.
“That’s the nature of national policies, they lift you up and bring you down. They manipulate you to make you grow at a steady pace. They don’t allow you to keep expanding,” said Feng Xing, a software engineer at a state-owned company.