back to article Chinese coders beat all-comers

Does China have the best hackers in the world? Well, new stats from code sprint site Interview Street would seem to indicate that they certainly dominate the global rankings when it comes to programming skills. The Bangalore-based web company provides a platform for coders to measure their abilities in a series of pre-assigned …


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  1. Muckminded

    Dueling Headlines

    "Chinese coders beat all-comers" vs "Over half of IT hires in Asia are duds".

    Since I don't know which article to believe, I'll go with neither.

    1. beardman
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dueling Headlines

      HEHE :D

      Good notice!

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Dueling Headlines

      The question is whether people are duds because they are rotten coders, or because they lack other skills. I have had some very good students from China (really top of the class), but receive many applications for PhD positions written in such poor English I would not dream of accepting them, however good their coding skills. Being a good IT worker requires more than just coding skills. Besides, there is a huge pool of recruits in China, so even if the top ones beat our top ones, there is plenty of space for duds down below.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Dueling Headlines

        Completely agree. Some years ago I worked for a large company that had a bit of a developer shortage, and they experimented with importing some development staff from India on contract. To be fair, some of them were excellent - wide range of skills (and good with people, not just code). But a lot of them, whilst excellent coders (Masters degree in coding etc) were absolutely rubbish as *developers*. Given a very detailed spec they could quickly and effectively write good code - but point them at a problem and say 'sort it' and they were hopeless. They had been trained in the skills of coding, and were extremely competent, but often didn't actually have the wider aptitude for investigating problems, identifying possible solutions, and taking those solutions through to some technical resolution.

        Whilst there are occasions when what is needed is some shit-hot coder who can do amazing things, despite a total lack of inter-personal skills and hygiene, for many businesses what is needed is a problem-solver who can develop solutions to real-life business issues that are 'fit for purpose'.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dueling Headlines

      I'd go with both... since such a large populace will have a few gems, but I found it more like 80% dud hires in China when it came to graduates.

      a friend out there told me he no longer hires graduates, as it takes 2 years to train them...

      1. CD001

        Re: Dueling Headlines

        a friend out there told me he no longer hires graduates, as it takes 2 years to train them...

        ... and that's different from the UK how?

        I work alongside a small in-house marketing department and 2 graduates we've had recently haven't even really known how to turn a computer on and were pretty much terrified of anything outside Word. Now, granted, these are marketing bods, you'd not expect them to be IT geniuses ... but they were straight out of Uni, in the 21st century, I'd expect them to at least have some degree of competence (and confidence) around computers!

    4. Armando 123

      Re: Dueling Headlines

      Makes sense if they have the highest highs and the lowest lows, but yeah.

    5. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: Dueling Headlines

      China != Asia.

    6. mhenriday

      Re: Dueling Headlines

      No, no, Muckminded, the desired reading of these two superficially contradictory rubricks is that «we» should be very, very afraid of those dastardly Chinese, who receive «obscene amounts of money» to attack «us» («grim reading», indeed !), while at the same time retaining feelings of innate (racial ?) superiority, as, according to Mr Muncaster, «16 per cent» of new recruits to the IT sector in China were regarded as «bad». Note that this figure of 16 % does not appear in the Hudson Report itself (, which states that 13 % were regarded as «bad», 51 % as «average», and 36 % as «good». Aside from his, alas, rather typical sloppiness with figures, Mr Muncaster's claim that «over half of new recruits in China and Singapore are duds» can only be made if the two categories «bad» and «average» are conflated to one called «duds». Is it customary to regard an «average» employee as a dud ? That the question is never posed how many recruits to the IT sector in countries like the UK or the US would be regarded by their employers as «duds» according to the above standards is par for the course....


  2. Tim Parker

    Northrop Grumman report

    "According to a recent high profile report by US defence contractor Northrop Grumman, the Chinese government ploughs obscene amounts of money into university technology programs covering areas such as information warfare - money western states couldn't hope to match."

    Umm... let's see.... remove name of highly independent, impartial company, quick nationality change here and here and.. TADA !

    "According to a recent high profile report ..., the US government ploughs obscene amounts of money into university technology programs covering areas such as information warfare - money eastern states couldn't hope to match."

    The Chinese version. Works for other countries too - collect the whole set - hours of endless fun changing the direction the finger points in.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Another explanation

    Interview Street is a site for people wanting a new job. Maybe developers in Western countries are happy with their current job? Or prefer to pick and choose who they work for by targeting applications to specific companies? Whereas the Chinese coders are all just desperate to get another job, any job, anywhere, just so long as it's outside the glorious freedom-loving People's Republic of China.

  4. jaime


    Duh of course they are going to have more better programmers from just a numbers standpoint. Don't they have more people in than the rest of the world combined?

    So you figure 1 out of 10 programmers is really good or whatever the numbers are these days they are easily going to be ahead of the rest!

    1. Steve Knox

      Re: Numbers

      According to a quick google*, China has approximately 1.3 billion people. World population is approximately 7.0 billion. That means China has roughly 19% of the world population.

      If we assume all else to be equal, China's numbers would give them roughly 19% of the top x spots, or about 4 of the top 20. Since they have 14 spots, we can conclude that variables other than population are at play. My guess is on training and knowledge of and incentive to compete on the given site.

      *Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

  5. Steve Knox


    That site's not for real hackers! They don't even have a VBScript parser!

  6. Gwaptiva

    Any indication of how the membership of Interview Street is split between Chinese and others? It might well be that having 14 chinese coders in the top 20 is not an indication of anything... could be a bit like saying that 95% of users speak Dutch...

    1. Steve Knox


      Nothing on the site, but you can filter the leaderboard for country. Unfiltered, there are 6,368 members on the leaderboard. Filtering for the countries in the top 20:

      China: 213 (~3.3%)

      USA: 1036 (~16.3% !!)

      Russia: 63 (~1%)

      Argentia: 12 (~0.2%)

      Brazil: 37 (~0.6%)

      NB: #8 listed "N/A" as country, but filtering on N/A failed to produce coherent results. Neither did "UK" - but that was not in the top 20 anyway.

      As a side note, I think they should ask the best hackers to work on their leaderboard. It shouldn't take several seconds to filter a mere 6,368 records.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Demographics

        Looks surprising, but check around the half-way point of your filtered results. USA has a long tail of users that subscribed but didn't actually get around to solving anything (compared to China)

        I would suggest this says something cultural about finishing something you started, maybe a majority of USA subscribers got bored more quickly and went and did something else so your numbers are misleading

        1. Steve Knox

          Re: Demographics

          Number of solutions isn't the right metric to use to detemine the validity of the data. Number of submissions is more appropriate. Unfortunately their leaderboard doesn't allow custom sorting so mining that information would mean wading through their interminably slow interface, something I don't care to do at 4 in the morning*.

          As the site is apparently for evaluating prospective employees, I'd say finishing what you start or sticking it through a trial is very relevant. These numbers may not solve your particular problem, but they are relevant to the purpose of that site, and they do answer the question originally posed by this thread.

          *Yes, I'm from the USA, what's that you say about finishing something you started? ; )

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Demographics

        I suspect the reason the UK is not in the top is we don't use the site maybe???

        I've never heard of it until now..

        I don't know about other UK programmers, but I don't do coding tests for a job, I will discuss problems and my method to solve them, but coding tests? no...

        Too many times have they either been wrong or even for a different language to the job, that I just walk away now..

  7. oldtaku

    It's a bit strange then that the number of crap Chinese coders I've had to work with vastly outnumbers (raw numbers or percentage-wise) any other nationality other than Indian. I've also worked with Russians, Ukranians, Poles, Ausies, Canadians, Brits, Irish, Scottish, German, French, Spanish, Yanks, even Mexicans.

    But I'm willing to believe that if they're any good at all the Chinese govt immediately hires them to hack into NATO defense contractors and I never get to deal with them at all.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      Tell me about the Mexicans then. Are they crappier than the others you worked with?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward way street

    anyone can hack/attack pre-existing code/tools or technology. especially with access to the source.

    show me the creativity - can these same people actually MAKE products? I doubt it. its a different mindset and skillset.

    1. Steve Knox

      Re: way street

      Re-read the article and check out the site. It's not about security hacking, but about software hacking -- writing a quick and efficient application to solve a given problem. The problems are pretty standard programming puzzles: string manipulation, mathlogic, etc. One was a variant of the traveling salesman problem.

      1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

        Re: way street

        AC inadvertently raises a good point though. This use of "hacker" to mean either "programmer" or, well, "hacker" dependent on context is terribly confusing. Eric Bloody Raymond has a lot to answer for

    2. RoboJ1M

      Re: way street

      Agreed, get one of them to design software that's powerful, elegant, reliable, maintainable and easy to use.

      And then get them to organise a team of many programmers to implement it.

      Then get them to document it.

      THEN see whether an entirely different team of developers can maintain it/interface with it.

      Generally any interface designed by a "programmer/hacker" looks like the dog vomited on the cat.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mixing causality with correlation

    I have to completely disagree with what the article is suggesting. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure China has a lot of great coders but to somehow suggest they are dominating the world and to start pointing fingers about funding and education in the west is misleading.

    Talented western coders will be busy in western jobs or happy doing their own thing. Much smaller numbers of top western coders would be bothered to complete online tests.

  10. roomey

    Good coders = hackers?

    I love the instant association this article makes between people good at coding, and cyber-terrorism.

    Firstly I would think they are pretty different skill sets, and secondly.... What?

    The commies are coming... No leaderboard is safe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good coders = hackers?

      Coder == Hacker

      Hacker != Cracker | Script Kiddie | Criminal

      Hacker is a word that has been misused by the media and given a new meaning

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good coders = hackers?

        You'll find no respect from me to any programmers calling themselves hackers.

        Misuse or not, if you're in the industry, at least get it right.

        And if you have any self respect and you can't or haven't actually hacked anything, don't call yourself a hacker or attend hackathons or hack days.

        It's basically saying you're a neophyte.

  11. JDX Gold badge

    More corroborating data

    TopCoder is one of the biggest programming competition hosts and you can see some rankings here:

    I've been to the finals of their annual tournament and the dominance of non-western competitors is dramatic. However, E. Europe is giving China a very strong fight. That's why I tend to hire Ukrainian or similar offshore coders rather than Indian.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More corroborating data

      That's not corroborating data. TopCoder's top country is Russia which doesn't feature that much in the InterviewStreet results, likewise Poland is 3rd in TopCoder but barely features in InterviewStreet.

      Pick your own site, pick your conclusion...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When in China...

    and I was trying to solve unusual tech issues, Googling for assistance and inspiration is frequently blocked. Probably often by mistake as the Great Firewall is scattershot. You just don't know. Plus the Google cache - which speeds up searches and usefully finds moved items, is completely unavailable. Frustration gradually built up until - relief! - I was back in the West again.

    Any great Chinese coder/developer who experience full freedom of information on a trip to the West will want to emigrate there.

  13. Ru

    So, does Project Euler keep any demographics?

    Cos they've been about for a while, and do a reasonable job of exercising computer sciency sorts of skills.

    "Interview Street" would appear to have a rather small selection of the World's coders. Not very statistically relevant, I'd say... good for a headline, but not much more.

  14. Eddie Edwards

    Of course, it could just be ...

    Of course it could just be that no-one over here has heard of Interview Street, and that even if they had, they wouldn't be spending enough time on it to rank up in the tests, as they don't value what looks like a pretty faddy and high-effort way to try to get a job.

    An article a few cm away on the front page says half of IT hires in Asia suck.

    And you know what "self-selecting samples" are in stats, right? They're useless, that's what they are.

    And this story is based on an Interview Street press release, right?

    Too many signs pointing to bullshit for my liking.

  15. Thomas 18


    Submitted my awesome code an hour and a half ago and still queued for testing :(. Do they mark these things manually or what?!

  16. Anonymous Coward

    I Call It Mil-Industry-Complex BullCrap

    Yes, hardware from Huawei might be good enough, but on other fields I cannot see anything genuinely Chinese-developed.

    ChinaSQL ? No.

    ChinUx ? Nope.

    ChinaWriter ? Nada

    ChicomBrowser ? Nope. (but they have ChinaFlavoirIE.exe)

    All they currently achieve is creating a funny shell around internet explorer and relabel it as their own browser. Hardly an achievement.

    Exactly the same is with India - Norway is more of an Software Superpower than India.

    So - Northrop-GrummFAIL.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    But Shurely Good For PORK-Barreling

    In Washington.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Jason Hindle

    Creating great coders is fine......

    But if you have to specify down to the if/then level what the solution is supposed to do, you may as well code it yourself. There's a lot more to most development jobs than just bashing out code these days. Perhaps if Communist Party didn't fear the kind education system that produces people who can think/act/design/create for themselves.

    The duelling headlines comment above is spot on, if a little harsh (some them can think/act/design/create for themselves but the Chinese education system isn't geared towards that).

  20. Armando 123


    A friend working security at a US Government facility would agree. Then again, 99% of their attempted break-ins originate from one country. He didn't say which one, but I believe it rhymes with "whina".

    Just sayin'.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best kind of investment

    Beats channelling obscene amounts of money into stupid bailouts or weapons programmes (F-35 anyone?)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speculate all you want.

    I'm in Hong Kong, granted not the tech capital of China, but in my 4 working years here as a developer / producer that is in the recruiter seat. I have not seen a single good developer or programmer, local or expat.

    In my 12 years in the UK however, the ratio of good vs bad devs I have MET is approximately 5:1.

    The difference is that those who can sort of code in the UK tends to end up in IT but never call themselves a coder, whereas here they think they're superstars just because they can make a website or a mobile app (badly I might add)

    Not too sure why Phil always post stuff about China IT, but you're looking at the wrong place, nothing interesting here at all, nor will there be for the forseeable future. Manpower here is cheaper than the cheapest computer you can possibly make useful so most bussinesses don't even know what IT means nor do they find the need to.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Speculate all you want.

      I should mod you down for being politically incorrect ! Fsck the truth.

      Besides, it hurts the business interest of some weapons makers. How irresponsible of you !

  23. MooseNC
    Paris Hilton

    Anyone notice...

    The top three programmers have percentages of 50/45/30%. I can get a thousand pennies and start throwing them into a crowd. Eventually, I'll hit someone in the eye. Looks like the best one (in the top 20) is actually #15 from russia with a percentage of 76%.

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