Fresh out of the studio, Rui Ma, China tech analyst and creator of Tech Buzz China, joined us to discuss how the China tech giants are evolving after the regulatory crackdown in the past three years. We start the conversation by examining why China missed the boat on ChatGPT with the tech giants now chasing after the same technology with their own variations. Next, we start to examine the key questions that everyone from the rest of the world wants to know about China tech from the possibility of a Tik Tok ban in the US to Tencent might follow suit from Alibaba in splitting their current conglomerate structure into different companies.
"But if you look at Generative AI, that is fundamentally a different way that technology came about and it required a lot of investment without knowing what was going to transpire. So I've talked to a couple of people who are affiliated with various top AI labs in China, and I asked them the same question 'Well, why didn't you guys not create this?' And the universal answer was... honestly OpenAI themselves probably had no idea what was going to happen." - Rui Ma
- Rui Ma, China Tech Analyst & Creator of Tech Buzz China (LinkedIn, @ruima)
- Since our last conversation, what have you been up to?
- Given we have known each other for the past decade, what are the lessons you can share about your career journey for the audience listening out there?
The Evolution of the Tech Giants in China with Rui Ma
- As China ended their COVID-zero policy early this year, what is the mood for the startups and venture capital ecosystem in China?
- Let’s start with generative AI given that it is the most important subject dominating the technology ecosystem from Silicon Valley to Beijing. Baidu, released their equivalent version of large language models (LLMs) Wen Xin Yi Yan (文心一言) with the launch of the Ernie chatbot and Alibaba released their equivalent called Tongyi Qianwen (通义千问) with integrations to DingTalk (their equivalent of Slack), what have we learned from how the Chinese tech giants are looking at generative AI and their applications for the Chinese ecosystem?
- What about Bytedance and Tencent? Are they coming into the fray of generative AI as Microsoft, Amazon and Google are now gearing up for the generative AI mindshare in the US?
- Are there startups equivalent to OpenAI and Anthropic in the China tech startup ecosystem? How far are they in competing against the tech giants?
- Does the US imposing sale of high-end semiconductors restrict the evolution of AI development in China?
- One thing that baffles me and was brought up by Shai Oster from The Information. We heard about Lee Kaifu’s assertions that China will be an AI superpower in early 2017-2018. Surprisingly, they did not launch ChatGPT or generative AI tools first. ChatGPT was started in the US by OpenAI and every tech company on the planet (including the Chinese ones) is reacting to this. Does this mean that the developments of AI are overhyped in China?
- Let’s switch gears to Bytedance given that they are now caught between a rock and a hard place. What are your thoughts on the TikTok CEO and fellow Singaporean, Chew Shou Zi’s testimony in front of the US Congress? (Source: Reuters)
- Is it what is expected or should they just ask the Bytedance CEO to come for the hearing instead?
- What are the chances of the US banning TikTok? What are the other scenarios if they do not ban TikTok?
- How does the US ban of Tik Tok affect their anticipated and upcoming IPO?
- As we look at Alibaba with the return of Jack Ma to China and the splitting of Alibaba into 6 companies with the CEO leading the cloud division, what is the rationale for the split of six companies and where do you see Alibaba moving forward in the next decade?
- Of all the technology giants, Tencent has been quiet but they are also under regulatory pressure specifically on their WeChat walled gardens and the release of games in China. What is the likelihood that they will follow in the footsteps of Alibaba in splitting up the company?
- What will be the likely splits for Tencent if that ever happens?
- Given the current tensions between US and China, can delisting happen for Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent?
- What does great now look like for the Chinese Tech Giants in the next decade?
- Do you have any recommendations that have inspired you recently?
- Rui Ma's recommendation: Elad Gil and Sarah Guo's "No Priors" podcast specifically, the Jensen Huang (CEO of Nvidia) interview.
- How does my audience find you?