David Brooks: “It shows what happens when an entire country [China] skips the PC and goes straight to mobile”

That is the claim David Brooks’ made in his annual Sidney Awards , praising the year’s best essays, in his op-ed:

“[WeChat] is an app that contains millions of apps within it. As Chan says, it shows what happens when an entire country skips the PC and goes straight to mobile.”

China obviously did not “skip the PC” but wondered just how far off that statement was. So I did the radical thing and looked it up:

In 2000, 0.3% of Chinese had PCs while a tiny fraction, the elites, had cellphones (service began in 1999). By 2005,  this ballooned to 15% owning PCs (roughly half of all households)  while 30% had cellphones. And by 2012, 40% had PCs while 80% had cellphones.

So, Brooks’ description is colorful, but not true. The use of the PC and the cellphone swept over China in tandem during the 2000s and by the time WeChat was widely used in 2012, there were already around 500 million PCs/ laptops in use.

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