Why Cloud Computing & SAAS are different in China with Lillian Li

Why Cloud Computing & SAAS are different in China with Lillian Li
Lillian Li explains why cloud computing and SAAS are different in China as compared to the rest of the world.

Fresh out of the studio, Lillian Li, founder of the Chinese Characteristics newsletter joined us in a conversation to explain why cloud computing and software as a service (SAAS) are different in China as compared to the rest of the world. Lillian began her origin story in why she started the newsletter and approach the Chinese market. Then we dived deep into the weeds of the Chinese enterprise market and explore why the Chinese tech companies found it difficult to build enterprise software and drive adoption in global expansion specifically in the Asian markets. Last but not least, Lillian explores how the Chinese cloud computing sector and SAAS model will evolve in the future to adapt to the changing world out there.

"In China, when you talk to someone about SASS. They typically link it with a type of software architecture rather than the payment recurrent payment theme. So that's one thing. And cloud computing is more understood as cloud adoption rather than using a last platform." - Lillian Li

Here are the links and show notes for this episode:


  • Lillian Li (LinkedIn, @lillianmli, Substack), Founder, Chinese Characteristics Newsletter
  • How did you start your career?
  • What brought you to China and eventually set up the Chinese Characteristics Newsletter?
  • From your career journey, what are the interesting lessons you can share with my audience?
  • What are the key topics which you cover on Chinese Characteristics?
  • How do you look at the Chinese market now? Is it just a giant Galapagos island with its own evolution distinctly different from the rest of the world or otherwise?

Why Cloud Computing and SaaS are different in China

  • References: The State of Chinese cloud computing 1, 2, 3 (the last two requires subscription)
  • Let’s baseline our understanding on cloud computing and SaaS. For the rest of the world outside China, we are familiar with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as examples for cloud computing and Salesforce as examples for SaaS solutions, how do you define cloud computing and SaaS broadly and then apply the lens where their Chinese counterparts have evolved with their own characteristics?
  • Which are the key cloud computing platforms in China as in Southeast Asia, we are aware of AliCloud and Tencent Cloud, but what about the rest which may or may not have started their geographic expansion?
  • For Alibaba and Tencent, I understand that Ding Talk is analogous to how Slack is for enterprises, and there is also a Wechat for work. How are these communications services different from their US counterparts?
  • Are there equivalents for Salesforce (CRM), Twilio (developer APIs), Databricks (analytics and AI - I find Bytedance’s volcanic engine or Byteplus - known to the rest of the world similar) in China?
  • In your perspective, why do Chinese giants struggle to build enterprise software? Can you offer some examples in the process? Ref: Why Chinese tech giants struggle to make enterprise software
  • We are moving towards a decoupled supply chain world where we will live in 2 systems: Chinese and US. We have seen this in navigation systems (GPS vs Beidou). The Chinese tech companies expanding their cloud services will need to adapt their tools to the rest of the world. What are your thoughts on how they can improve their current offerings to push adoption for the rest of the world or will they be expanding where the other Chinese enterprises are?
  • How do you rate the future of cloud computing and SaaS in China and will they evolve differently from their US counterparts?


Podcast Information: The show is hosted and produced by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong, Linkedin) and Carol Yin (@CarolYujiaYin, LinkedIn). Sound credits for the intro and end music: "Run it" by DJ Snake, Rick Ross and Rich Brian and the episode is edited by Geoffrey Thomas Craig.