Tweets from The Economist Innovation Summit

The Economist Innovation Summit 2016 was held on Sept. 6 in Hong Kong. I was honored to speak at the event.

EconomistInnovationSummit-4

While attending the event, I live-tweeted highlights from the event. The following tweets have been getting many impressions and retweets:

Markus Steilemann: Innovation is about invention that makes money, and China is doing great in that

Victor Foo: innovation should be focusing on solving local market problems.

David Chao: Government directed programs never do well. Let the markets take paths

Continue reading

Why China Can Dominate Next-Generation Manufacturing

In a recent article in the Washington Post, “Why China won’t own next generation manufacturing,” the author Vivek Wadhwa discusses China’s new 10-year plan, called “Made in China 2025.” The plan aims to modernize China’s manufacturing with advanced technologies such as robotics, 3-D printing, cloud computing, and big data.

лªÉçÕÕƬ£¬±±¾©£¬2015Äê5ÔÂ13ÈÕ µÚÊ®°Ë½ìÖйú±±¾©¹ú¼Ê¿Æ¼¼²úÒµ²©ÀÀ»á¿ªÄ» 5ÔÂ13ÈÕ£¬¹ÛÖÚÔڲιۿƲ©»áÉÏÕ¹³öµÄ»úÆ÷ÈË¡£ µ±ÈÕ£¬µÚÊ®°Ë½ìÖйú±±¾©¹ú¼Ê¿Æ¼¼²úÒµ²©ÀÀ»á¿ªÄ»£¬Õ¹»áÎüÒýÁË4¸ö¹ú¼Ê×éÖ¯¡¢19¸ö¹ú¼ÒºÍµØÇø´ú±í£¬ÒÔ¼°¹úÄÚ1600Óà¸ö¸ßм¼ÊõÆóÒµ¡¢¸ßУ¡¢¿Æ¼¼Ô°Çø´ú±í²Î¼Ó¡£ лªÉç¼ÇÕß ÀîÎÄ Éã

China has committed $150 billion to this gigantic modernization scheme. “But no matter how much money it spends,” Mr. Wadhwa writes, “China simply can’t win with next-generation manufacturing.”

The reason? Chinese robots are poor quality, Wadhwa argues, and they cannot be more productive than American robots. And most importantly, the Chinese workforce lacks the skills to perform in an advanced manufacturing setting.

But I would not write off China’s ability to advance its technologies as well as its workforce so quickly. There are signs that Chinese industries are catching up with, and in some cases, even exceeding the West. Continue reading

A Native’s Homage to Hangzhou, The G20 Host

Twenty-eight years ago, I would never have imagined that the President of the United States and other world leaders would visit my hometown, Hangzhou, and discuss important matters that will affect humanity’s future.

Shutterstock

The Hangzhou I left behind was a backwater town, with narrow alleys and rundown dwellings. There was only one department store, Liberalization Department Store, one decent hotel, Hangzhou Hotel (now renamed as Shangri-La). Many people still wore Mao suite. Most rode bicycles to work and for daily chores. The only automobiles on the streets were dusty buses, which ran sparsely between hours and were almost never on time.

Yes, there was West Lake, and people said it was beautiful. To my unappreciative eye, however, it was a dead lake. The stillness of the lake seemed lifeless to me. I was yearning to see oceans. I grew up hearing people say that “above there is heaven, and below there is Hangzhou.” But I was desperate to leave the “paradise on earth.”

….

Now one of the wealthiest cities in the country, Hangzhou has 9 million inhabitants. Most of them are members of the new middle class, who have seen their life dramatically improved over the past decades.

When President Barack Obama arrives in Hangzhou on Saturday, he will not see a backwater town. Instead, he will see a bustling modern metropolis nestled in lush hills.

….

I finally understand why people say Hangzhou is a “paradise on earth.” Now that I have seen the oceans, visited the Lincoln Memorial, and watched Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech many times, and looking from the other side of the Pacific, I can truly appreciate Hangzhou’s beauty.

(Read the full article on Forbes).

Three Innovative Ways to Reach Chinese Consumers

The Chinese super app WeChat is not only a superior social media tool (as I wrote here), it is also at the forefront of mobile e-commerce innovation that the West has never seen.

WeChatCommerce

As of this writing, WeChat has over 800 million users (yes, it seems that WeChat’s user base is growing by the minute). Better yet, its users are super active. An average user checks into the app 10 times a day. They are practically living on WeChat.

This has created a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach consumers. Reports indicate that brands in the fashion, watches, and jewelry categories receive an average of 7,000 views per WeChat post.

WeChat offers platforms for brands to engage in interactive and one-to-one communication, driving online-to-offline activities and encouraging loyalty. WeChat’s payment system allows brands to sell directly to consumers seamlessly. Its true potential has yet to be tapped. Continue reading

Apple: A Trend Follower in China?

It was not too long ago that Apple’s iPhone was a status symbol among young Chinese middle class consumers. They would stand in a long line before the launch of a new iPhone and spend a month’s salary just to own one.

apple_iphone_6_ap

This has changed. According to a Financial Times article, Chinese consumers no longer buy into the hype they once did in iPhone. These days, Apple looks like “a trend follower” and is struggling to “keep itself interesting” in China.

Apple has continued losing ground as China’s smartphone market becomes increasingly competitive. iPhone sales dropped 32 percent in the second quarter, and the Silicon Valley company fell to fifth place behind Huawei and other unknown brands such as Oppo and Vivo, according to research from International Data Corp (IDC) Continue reading

3 Lessons from Uber’s Defeat in China

When I was in China this March, one of the best conveniecnes was to ride around town on Uber. The price was ridiculously cheap. Uber drivers told me how much bonus they would get as long as they were on the road.

Uber-ChinaI knew Uber was locked in a bloody battle with its Chinese rival Didi Chuxing. In order to gain market share, Uber subsidized its riders heavily, losing $1 billion a year. To me, that was a sign of trouble, because competing on price is never the way for foreign firms to win in China.

When Apple invested $1 billion in Didi this May, I knew Uber’s days in China were numbered. Didi had more than 80 percent market share in China’s ride-hailing business. Apple clearly saw that Uber had no chance and bet on the top dog.

Even without Apple’s blow, Uber was in a disadvantageous position. It was a late comer Continue reading

It’s Time for Facebook to Copy WeChat

Many in the West have long disdained Chinese firms as copycats. Some believe that no innovation from China can be called original. Baidu looks like Google, they argue, Alibaba is a version of Amazon, and Tencent imitates Facebook.

Wrong. In the example of Tencent’s WeChat, the Chinese social media platform, Western equivalents such as Facebook Messenger, What’s App, or Twitter look hopelessly inferior.

Hand holding smart phone with abstract glowing lines concept

As I wrote two years ago, there is nothing like WeChat in the West. A super app, as some call it, WeChat is a mobile messaging board offering free video calls, group chat, and many fun features such as a shake function to link contacts with other users. Now it boasts 700 million users. Each user has a personal QR code that serves as a digital ID. Over half of users have linked their bank accounts to its mobile payment system. They can shop, hail a ride or book a hotel – right there while they are chatting with friends.

At an event in Shanghai last year, Elaine Chow, communication manager of the global digital consultancy Razorfish, demonstrated how she went about her day without her wallet. Continue reading

Will China Become the World’s Innovation Hotbed?

I am honored to be invited to speak at the Economist Innovation Summit in Hong Kong on Sept. 6, 2016.

InnovationSummitThe Summit gathers entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry luminaries to examine how Chinese firms have evolved from copycats to innovators, and what impact they will have on the rest of the world.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article Why China Will Lead Innovation in Social and Mobile Commerce. Clearly, Chinese firms are innovating in many other fields as well. An Economist article indicates that:

In fields from gene editing to big-data analytics to 5G mobile telephony, Chinese experts are now among the world’s best. Sunway TaihuLight (pictured), a supercomputer made using only local computer chips, is five times as fast as the best American rival…. WeChat, a social-media and payments platform with 700m monthly active users, is more useful and fun than Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp put together.

Continue reading

600 Million Consumers, 3 Emerging Trends

The Chinese economy may have slowed down, but Chinese consumers haven’t. In 2015, consumer spending increased approximately 13 percent, compared to less than 7 percent growth in GDP.

HK_consumer2_450A recent McKinsey report indicates that Chinese consumers have remained confident despite the economy slowing down. Among the 10,000 individuals surveyed by McKinsey, 55 percent expected their incomes would increase significantly over the next five years, compared to just 32 percent of consumers in the United States and 30 percent in the United Kingdom believed so.

The Chinese middle class now represents one-half of China’s population. Although they are new consumers, they are maturing and modernizing rapidly. Three characteristics are emerging: Continue reading