Sloth and processing - about China's IT and industry from the inside

    Photos: Anton Areshin

    A few days ago, the Chinese repository 996.ICU became popular on GitHub . Instead of a code, it contains complaints about working conditions and illegal processing. The name itself refers to a memo from Chinese developers about their work: “From nine to nine six days a week, and then to intensive care” (Work by '996', sick in ICU). Anyone can commit to the repository if he confirms his story with screenshots of internal documents and correspondence. The Verge drew attention to the

    case and found inside stories about working conditions in the country's largest IT companies - Alibaba, Huawei, Tencent, Xiaomi and others. Almost immediately, these companies began to block access to 996.ICU, not responding to comments from foreign media.

    I don’t know what could be more ordinary than this news - as well as our reaction to it: “Do the Chinese complain about Github? Ok, soon they will block him and make their own. ” We are used to the only thing they write about China - blocking, censorship, cameras, social rating a la “Black Mirror”, persecution of Uyghurs, infernal exploitation, absurd scandals with memes about Winnie the Pooh and so on in a circle.

    At the same time, China provides the whole world with goods. Giant companies that condemn lack of freedom are ready to forget their principles in order to enter the Chinese market. In China, a powerful industry and IT industry, space development is developing there. Wealthy Chinese are destroying real estate markets in Canada and New Zealand, buying everything for any money. The Chinese films and books that come to us are simply beautiful.

    These are interesting contradictions (combinations?). In a world where the truth has finally died under the knives of points of view, it seems impossible to understand the whole context of what China really is. Without even hoping to figure it out, I talked with several people who have been living and working there for a long time - just to add a couple more opinions to the piggy bank.

    Student front-end versus govnokod

    Artem Kazakov has been living in China for six years and is engaged in Frontend development. He is from Angarsk in the Irkutsk region. Until the 9th grade, Artem studied at a school with in-depth study of the English language, but in the middle of the semester he decided to change direction and go to the Polytechnic Lyceum. There he was questioned - they did not want to take a person from the humanitarian school.

    A year later, he won a trip to the United States under the FLEX program, the fifth in the history of the lyceum.

    Artem also turned the craving for languages ​​upside down - he changed natural languages ​​to programming languages, and English to Chinese. “In the 2010s, it wasn’t surprising anyone with knowledge of English, so I entered the Dalian Pedagogical University for Chinese language courses. Having studied for two years in the courses, I passed the HSK exam (IELTS, TOEFL type) to a level sufficient for admission to the university for a bachelor, ”he says.

    After Dalian, Artyom moved to Wuhan, Hubei Province, and entered Wuhan University - the eighth in the ranking of Chinese universities. At the same time, he studies at the Angarsk University in absentia and in June he will defend two diplomas at once.

    Artem lives in China on a student visa, and working on it - even remotely - is not entirely legal. “In China, it is strictly forbidden to work with a student visa, but you must survive,” he says, “I personally taught TOEFL, IELTS students for several years, both in Dalian and Wuhan. There is an option to work as models, or bartenders, but it is more risky. If they catch it once, it’s a fine of five thousand yuan from you and twenty-five from the employer. The second time is deportation, and in some cases up to fifteen days and a black seal (you can’t enter China for five years). Therefore, no one here needs to know about my work remotely. But even if they find out, I’m not taking money from the Chinese, I’m not breaking the law, so there’s no problem with it. ”

    In his second year at the University, Artyom completed his internship at a Chinese IT company. There was a lot of routine; it was necessary to typeset HTML pages day after day. He says that the tasks were boring, no magic on the back, no new solutions at the front. He wanted to gain experience, but quickly ran into local peculiarities: “The Chinese work according to a very interesting scheme - the task comes to the project, and they don’t saw it into small parts, they don’t decompose, they just take it and do it. Often there were cases when the same module was written in parallel by two different developers. "

    It is only natural that in China there is huge competition for places. And it seems that local developers have no time to learn new and advanced in order to become valuable - instead, they write as quickly as possible on what is:

    “They do poor quality, they have a lot of shit, but in a magical way everything works, and this is strange. There is a lot of workforce, and outdated solutions, judging by JS. I did not see that the developers sought to learn something new. Roughly speaking, they learned PHP, SQL, JS, and they all write on it using jQuery at the front. Fortunately, Ewan Yu came, and the Chinese crossed the front to Vue. But this process was not fast. ”

    In 2018, after an internship in one company, Artem was invited to another - to finalize the mini-application in WeChat. “No one there even heard about ES6 in javascript. No one knew about arrow functions or destructuring. The very style of writing the code made the hair on my head stand on end. " In both companies, Artyom spent a lot of time editing the code of the previous developer, and only when he brought everything back to normal did he begin his initial task. But after a while he found the same pieces corrected by him again spoiled.

    “Although I was not the most experienced, I decided to switch from code.aliyun to GitHub, I began to revise the code myself and send it back to the developer for rework, if I didn’t like something. I told the management - if they want their application to work as they intended, they need to trust me. Tehlid was extremely dissatisfied, but after the first week of work everyone saw progress, the frequency of code laying out with a minimum number of minor bugs to WeChat users, and everyone agreed to continue. "Chinese developers are smart, but they love to code like they once learned and unfortunately do not want to learn something new, and if they learn, it is very difficult and long."

    In turn, in the backend without surprises. Like us, Java and C-languages ​​seemed to be the most popular for Artem. And just like ours, working in IT is a quick and risk-free way to get into the middle class. Salaries according to his observations vary between a high figure in the Russian Federation and an average in the USA, despite the fact that you can live well on average Moscow one hundred thousand rubles a month. "Good shots are appreciated here, you just need to break through and hold on to the place, otherwise you will be replaced."

    What developers complain about at 996.ICU, Artem confirms: “Startups that start to make money sit on the development day and night. Many companies provide sleeper offices. All this is done in order to do as much as possible and finish the plan as quickly as possible. This is pretty standard in China. Eternal processing and long working weeks. ”

    Production manager against laziness

    “Saying that the Chinese are such poor things, they process ... yes they feel fine,” says Ivan Surkov, Tion's production manager in China, “I think the stories of how Chinese are driven into factories in slavish conditions are all fairy tales just to discredit companies for which they produce. I have not seen a single enterprise in which there was hellish labor. Probably, it seems so to the Europeans who have lived all their lives in a city where everything is cool, clean, stone-lined paths - and here they come and see how people stick out at the factory from morning to evening. ”

    Ivan sees this for several years every day, but he came to China from Ivanov, a place where everything is definitely not cool and clean. Six years ago, he began to learn a language at a foreign school at the university. Now Ivan is working for a Russian company that produces smart breathers in China. He goes to enterprises with his documentation, and they start production. Ivan throws off orders, monitors their execution, solves conflict situations, goes to contractors and manages everything related to contract manufacturing. And if I, reading about the eternal refining, represent selfless hard work, then Ivan says that every day he fights with Chinese laziness.

    “For example, I come to the customer service manager, who must run around the factory with me. She just needs to go down to the first floor, go into the next building and say a few words to people. But it begins: “Come on, go yourself.” Damn, you are not doing anything now, you are dumb into the monitor, raise your ass! No, she’d better find another person. And so that's it - in order to make the Chinese work, they really need to be forced. You can agree with them, but you always need to look so that you are not deceived. In rare cases, you even have to crush, hysteria, say that you will not accept the goods, that they will get money. In order for them to stir, we must constantly act. ”

    This is not the first time I've heard such things, and it always seemed strange to me: on the one hand, negligence, old technology, shitty code - but China in a few years is replacing the entire Internet industry with its own and releasing services that withstand billions of users. People talk about laziness and unwillingness to work - but in the same place, twelve-hour days and six-day work weeks are normal. Ivan believes that there are no contradictions in this:

    “Yes - they work, but not hard. It is just a quantity of time, not quality. They work eight hours, and then another four more. And those hours are already paid at a different rate. In fact, it is voluntary-compulsory, and so everyone works. They have the option not to come in the evening, but money has money. Moreover, when you are in an environment where it is normal, then it is normal for you.

    And production speed is the same conveyor. Henry Ford also figured out how everything should work. And if your staff is trained, then here are the volumes. In addition, the Chinese are not afraid to invest, they are quite bold in this regard. And if they invested, then squeeze out everything that is possible from them. "

    Who lives in China well

    Now Ivan lives in the city of Shenzhen - this place is called "China Silicon Valley." The city is young, it is about forty years old, but during this time it developed at a furious pace. Now more than ten million people live in Shenzhen. The city stands on the sea, recently it was attached to two very large areas from other provinces, which used to be fully industrial, built one of the most beautiful airports in China. Ivan says that his district is being actively renewed, crumbling the old, being built up. When he arrived there, there was a continuous construction around, the piles were just clogging. Two years later, developers began to rent finished apartments.

    Almost all Chinese electronics (except, for example, Lenovo) are produced here. The Foxconn factory stands here - this is a giant electronics assembly factory where, among others, Apple technology is manufactured. Ivan told how his friend went to this plant, and he was barely allowed to go there. “You are of interest to them only if you order from a million mobile phones per year. This is the minimum - just to talk to them. "

    In China, almost everything works according to the business-to-business scheme, and in Shenzhen there are a lot of large and small contract enterprises. Moreover, among them there are few full-cycle enterprises. “On one they make electronics and components, on the second they pour plastic, then on the third something else, on the tenth they put together. That is, not like we are used to in Russia, where there are worthless full-cycle enterprises. It doesn’t work like that in the modern world, ”says Ivan.

    Shenzhen has a warm climate, and unlike the north of the country, there are many electric vehicles. All of them, like ordinary ICE cars, are mostly local. “In China they make really cool cars - Gili, BYD, Donfon - there are really many brands of cars. Much more than represented in Russia. It seems to me that slag that is being transported to Russia is not even sold here, except perhaps somewhere in the west of China. Here, in the east, which is all in production, if the car is Chinese, then it is worthy. Good plastic, interior, leather seats, a ventilated butt and everything you want. "

    Both Artem and Ivan say that China is much more comfortable for life than it seemed to them before their arrival: “In China there is everything that an ordinary Russian person may need. Gym, swimming pools, eating places, huge malls, shops. At the weekend, we go out with friends for a walk, to the movies, sometimes to a bar, or we go out into the countryside, ”says Artem,“ “Just waiting for Chinese food to be delicious - it was a fiasco for me. After living in China for six years, I found only a few dishes of Chinese cuisine that I like, and even those remotely resemble Western food. ”

    “Many of the things that we know about China are very exaggerated,” Ivan says. “You don’t really feel overpopulated here. I’ve been living in China for six years and just now I saw someone pushing a man in the subway. Before that, I lived in Beijing, was on the subway and have never met such a thing - although Beijing is a fairly populous city. We constantly show this garbage on TV, they say, in China this is commonplace. And I saw this for the first time in six years, only in Shenzhen at rush hour! And this is not such a tin, as they say about it. Half an hour and that’s all - you won’t see the crowds. ”

    Freedom is good or bad

    But in their views on the notorious censorship and freedom, the guys disagreed. According to Artyom, a social rating is leaking into all corners of China. “Already, you can meet people who can’t buy a plane ticket, or a train of good class because of the low rating. There are many ways to raise a rating. There is an application in which the Chinese can turn in their illegal alien neighbor and get a good reward for it. A couple of touches of the phone screen and all. I bet this also helps the rating. Or, it’s enough for the Chinese to just think that their neighbor is not working on a work visa, and soon the police will come with a check, ”says Artem.

    Ivan has never encountered such cases, and generally with discontent and negativity. “People immediately begin to compare this with the Black Mirror, they like to mystify everything, they want to see only the bad in any attempt to arrange something. And perhaps social rating is a good thing, ”he said.

    “I think now everything is only being tested, and when it goes to the masses with legislative support, it will be visible there. But I feel that fundamentally this will not change life. There are simply a lot of different kinds of deceivers in China. According to conventional wisdom, they like to deceive only foreigners - in fact, the Chinese too. It seems to me that this initiative is aimed at improving the lives of everyone. But how it will be implemented in the future is a question. With a knife, you can cut bread and kill a person. ”

    At the same time, Ivan said that he did not use the local segment of the Internet - except perhaps Baidu, the local analogue of Google, and only for work. Living in China, he continues to sit on the Russian-language Internet. Artem uses, but believes that the Chinese Internet is sheer censorship.

    “On a large scale, it began in 2014, when Google banned. At that time, Chinese activists, for example, AIVeyVay posted on Twitter the whole truth about life in China. There was a case: an earthquake occurred in China, and since they saved on the construction of schools, there were a lot of victims. The real number of dead was hidden by the government.

    AIV was a hipster and created a program - he looked for the parents of all the victims of the tragedy to tell the world about the real state of things. Many followed his example, began to upload stories to the global network. All this came to the attention of the government, and it began to block Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many sites that I now need to develop the skills of the Frontend developer. ”

    What does the Chinese Internet look like?

    I expected that the speed of the Internet will be at least the same as in the homeland, but no - the Internet is very slow. Plus, in order to freely go to any sites, you need a VPN.

    Since about 2015, Chinese analogues of foreign services began to be created in the country. Jibo's video streaming was very popular at that time. Any content was laid out there, the Chinese liked it, and there it was possible to earn money. However, later a service appeared - Dowin (Tick Tok), which still “shakes”. Quite often, content is copied from foreign counterparts, and shown in Dowin. Since a greater number of Chinese people do not have access to foreign resources, no one suspects plagiarism.

    TuDou and YouKu (analogues of YouTube) are not popular, because these services are state-owned, there is a lot of censorship - there is no freedom of creativity.

    You won’t be confused with messengers in China - there are WeChat and QQ. These are instant messengers and social networks. There have been other attempts to create something similar, but about 90% of the total population of China uses QQ and Wechat. The second problem is censorship again. Everything must be controlled. Both applications were created by Tencent.

    QQ is more suitable for students because it is a great file hosting service. There are functions in Wichat that allow you to pay for a communal apartment, buy plane tickets, a train, and even buy tomatoes from a Chinese grandmother on a street that looks 170 years old and pay her using WeChat. There is another service for making payments - AliPay (Jifubao), and there you can also just chat with friends.
    “I believe that the Chinese are living well, although they all whine that they are so not free,” Ivan says. “They think that the bulwark of freedom is somewhere in the west. But it’s always good where we are not. There are tons of articles on the Internet that totalitarianism in China and everywhere are cameras. But the city with the largest number of cameras is London. And to speak in this vein about China is pure propaganda.

    At the same time, Ivan agrees that China has a serious security system: “The Chinese at the helm understand that they shouldn’t give the people freedom, otherwise they will start heating each other so much that they will create hell. Therefore, society is well monitored. ” And most of the technical innovations, according to Ivan, are needed to speed up the processes in a country with a huge population. For example, electronic passports, cards, payment systems in instant messengers, universal QR codes are needed for this.

    “In principle, in China people are treated humanly. In the circle where I communicate - these are directors of firms, and ordinary workers and office engineers - they are all right. ”

    The process and bureaucracy towards WeChat

    About a year ago, Dodo Pizza announced that it would launch a cash-free pizzeria in China. All payments there must go through WeChat, but it turned out that it is very difficult to implement it from outside of China. There are many pitfalls in the process, and the main documentation exists only in Chinese.

    So, to his two diplomas, Artem also added remote work at the Dodo. But getting their app on WeChat turned out to be a long story.

    “In order to open a site in Russia, you just need to open a site. Hosting, domain and more. In China, things are much more complicated. Let's say you need to create an online store. To do this, you need to buy a server, but the server can not be issued to a foreigner. I have to look for a Chinese friend to give his ID card, you went through her registration and bought a server. "

    After buying a server, you need to buy a domain, but to start the site in work, you need to get several licenses. The first is the ICP license. It is issued by the Ministry of Industry and Informatization of the PRC to all commercial sites in mainland China. “In order to get ICP for a new company, especially a foreign one, you need to collect a bunch of documents and go through several steps on the government website. If all goes without delay, it will take about three weeks. After receiving the ICP, it will take another week to get the Public License Filling. And welcome to China. ”

    But if opening websites differs only in bureaucracy, then working with WeChat is absolutely unique. Tencent came up with mini-applications for his messenger, and they became wildly popular in the country: “I would be glad to compare them with something, but there are no analogues. In fact, these are applications within the application. For them, WeChat came up with their own framework, very similar in structure to VueJS, created their own IDE, and it works well too. The framework itself is new, and quite powerful, and although there are limitations, for example, AXIOS is not supported. Due to the fact that not all methods of objects and arrays are supported, the framework is constantly evolving. "

    Due to the growing popularity, all developers began to rivet tons of the same mini-app. They so flooded the messenger that Tencent set limits on the size of the code. For mini-app - 2 MB, for mini-games - 5 MB.

    “In order to be able to knock on the API, it is necessary that the domain has ICP and PLF. Otherwise, you won’t even be able to add an API address in one of Wichat’s many admins. There are so many bureaucracies that sometimes it seemed that I could never go through all the instances, register all the Vichat admin accounts, get all the licenses and access. This is possible only if you have developed logic, have brains, patience, programming knowledge (otherwise you do not even know where to look), and, of course, knowledge of the Chinese language. Most of the documentation is also in English, but the cream itself - exactly what you need - is only in Chinese. There are a lot of restrictions, and such self-closing chains are fun to observe only from the side.

    Having completed everything to the end, you get real pleasure - on the one hand you defeated the system, and on the other ... you just figured out all the rules. It’s really cool to develop something in such a new environment, and at the same time be one of the first in this area. ”

    The scene after the credits

    Actually, this article grew out of one simple question - is it true that Winnie the Pooh does not exist in China? It turned out to exist. Pictures, toys and is found here and there. But when Ivan and I tried to google memes about Xi Jinping, we found nothing but cute pictures.

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