China and the Concept of Third Space | God's World News

China and the Concept of Third Space

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    Visitors take photos of a ZEEKR car during the opening of the China Auto Show in Beijing. It includes a large flat screen. (AP/Tatan Syuflana)
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    Visitors sit inside at a ZEEKR Mix car during the China Auto Show. Seats can turn and face a table. (AP/Tatan Syuflana)
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    The U8 SUV turns like a tank. (AP/Ng Han Guan)
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    Visitors photograph cars during the opening of the China Auto Show. (AP/Tatan Syuflana)
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    Visitors take photos of an MG concept car. What kind of car would you design? (AP/Tatan Syuflana)
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With over 460 million drivers, China is the world’s largest auto market. To succeed there, car makers must meet consumers’ high-tech demands. At shows like Beijing’s Auto China 2024, the Chinese are boldly taking vehicles where no one has gone before.

Chinese society is highly digital: Ultra-savvy and uber-connected consumers use e-payments, facial recognition, QR codes, mobile internet, and other cutting-edge technology. Some experts say being connected trumps privacy for many people in China.

Competitive new cars are both electrically powered and digitally connected. A few examples from Auto China:

Chinese telecom giant Huawei ventured into car manufacturing in 2021. Its make is Aito, for “Adding Intelligence to Auto.” At Auto China, Huawei showed its high-end tech, including facial recognition, individually controlled headrest sound systems, and laser measurement system LiDAR. (See The Man Driving the Autonomous Car for an explanation of LiDAR.) Huawei supplies systems for other car makers too.

Electric vehicle maker BYD introduced the latest version of its U8. The company designed the monster off-road SUV for survival in rugged conditions. As for connectedness, it comes with a satellite phone in case an adventuresome driver wanders outside cell phone range. For an upcharge, buyers can add a drone system.

Xiaomi is a Chinese maker of smartphones and trendy, affordable smart appliances. But the group entered the car market this year. It debuted the SU7—and got more than 75,000 orders in four weeks.

Analysts say Xiaomi’s move into the car space squares with its push to enhance connectivity from phones, laptops, and televisions in cars.

Another trend involves what auto researcher Beatrix Keim calls “the concept of the third place.” She says that “people are at the office, at home, and then mainly, they’re spending the time in the car.”

Third places (or spaces) are locations that provide social contact beyond the people you live or work with. In third places, people connect and become “regulars” and broaden their circles. Christians recognize the importance of the third place too: the local church. (Hebrews 10:25)

Chinese electric vehicle maker Zeekr is exploring cars as third spaces with its new Mix. The car’s interior can transform into a small room while parked. Front seats swivel to face the back ones, with a table between the seats. Company executives say users could play card games or enjoy a Chinese hot-pot meal—right in the car.

“It’s more a lifestyle capsule,” says Zeekr design director Stefan Sielaff. “It’s an iPod on wheels.”

For a government that exercises strict control of the internet and digital communication, all that car tech makes keeping track of China’s citizens even easier.

Why? God made humans to seek connection. Church is the Christian’s “third place” or “lifestyle capsule.”

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