Executives' insight on future of the web
Editor's note: The third World Internet Conference, also known as the Wuzhen Summit, is taking place in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. China Daily reporters interviewed a group of senior information technology business executives to learn their views about innovation and how internet is reshaping China.
Q1: What do you think of the role of the internet or innovations in China's economic transformation?
Q2: From your perspective, what are the characteristics of a powerful internet country? What do you think are the advantages and challenges China face in becoming a powerful internet country?
Q3: In the next few years, which sector do you think will most likely become a disruptor in the internet or technology space? Or in other words, what do you think will be the next hotspot or trend?
Q4: In terms of a "capital winter", what kind of impact do you see it having on your company, and how would you forecast the "temperature" in the internet market in 2017?
Q5: In the past year, what transformations in the internet or technology sector do you think have the ability to influence our future or the future of the industry? What do you think are the reasons for this transformation?
Frank Meng, chairman of Qualcomm China
A1 Today, China is building itself into a new innovation powerhouse. Innovation will be prioritized in China's development in the next five years to shift China's economic structure into a higher-quality and sustainable growth model.
A2 China has played an essential role in the development of the mobile internet. Enhancing China's innovation capabilities will be a key driver for China to evolve into an internet powerhouse, and the key is to proactively deploy in and integrate itself into the global innovation network and optimize the allocation of innovation resources worldwide in the future.
A3 Connectivity is widely used in the healthcare, education, automotive, robotics and drone sectors, and has yielded substantial results. Take the automotive industry as an example. We believe that regardless of what the next promising area is, the core will certainly be the capability of leveraging connectivity and mobile computing technologies to change people's lives and become a tool of productivity.
A4 In the area of venture capital investment, we are at the top as the most active corporate VC worldwide in the mobile and telecommunication fields. And today, we are strategically shifting our investment focus from "mobile internet" to "frontier technology", which includes artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and aerospace technology.
A5 5G is a unifying, more capable communications fabric that will take on a much bigger role than previous generations of mobile technology. It's a layer of connectivity that will become fundamental to our cities, jobs, homes, and ourselves. 5G will expand mobile networks and technologies into a much wider range of industries and thus change the way we interact with our world and each other.
Li Dongsheng, chairman and CEO of TCL Corp
A1 The development and innovation of the internet plays a crucial role in the transformation of China's economy and they are the driving force for the transformation and upgrading of modern enterprises. Under such a background, higher standards are set for China's enterprises. They should progressively upgrade products that are "Made in China".
A2 A world-leading internet power should be based on the support of national policies, and speed up the self-innovation of network information technology. China has a strong internet infrastructure and wide application of Internet, and a huge number of netizens. Meanwhile, related policies released by the government also foster the building of a leading internet power. However, we still need to do more in innovation in technology, business models and cybersecurity.
A3 The global economy has entered a new phase from depending on efficiency, speed and cost to technological innovation and upgrading of management concepts and business models. The building of an ecological internet system which integrates intelligent application and service into the real life should be the trend of the future.
A4 Against the background of rapid changes in global industry and markets, TCL has attached great importance to the building of core capacities, especially the enhancement of product technological innovation and global brand competitiveness. TCL has also been investing greatly in technological R&D and expanding the international market.
A5 The convenience, technology and reciprocity of the internet will complement the advantages of manufacturing industry and the Internet. And the development of the internet provides new business opportunities to manufacturers.
Elaine Chang, vice-president of Amazon and president of Amazon China
A1 The beauty of the internet is that it connects the whole world, creating a global platform, allowing us to drive innovation not only for China, but also globally.
A2 China has the world's largest base of internet users, and is already an internet leader in many ways. China is also able to take advantage of having a minimal technology legacy and leap frog into new technologies, mobile payments, on demand transportation, and social networks. With customers who are willing to adapt to innovation quickly, the challenge will be to strike the right balance between time to market and high quality. The strong competitive environment also poses another challenge for new companies and technologies to grow fast sustainably.
A3 The internet is so ubiquitous and there are increasing ways to better target and serve customers all the time. For Retail, Amazon believes that customers will always care about three things: Selection, Pricing, Convenience, and we design our customer experience to optimize this specifically.
A4 Globally, the internet industry is still growing, and the bar for investment may be higher, however, if you can serve customers well the opportunity is still there. For Amazon China, I believe e-commerce will continue to be a dynamic industry growing rapidly in 2017, especially in cross-border e-commerce. Chinese customers have shown tremendous enthusiasm toward cross-border online shopping.
A5 Drones and artificial intelligence have experienced fast developments in the past year and could very possibly become the next revolutionary wave for the e-commerce industry. Voice as a computing interface is also a key trend.
Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of Lenovo Group Ltd
A1 In the future, the internet industry and traditional sectors will be more deeply intertwined. New businesses will emerge and help expedite innovation and progress in technology and overall economic growth. Chinese enterprises should seize this great opportunity to restructure business.
A2 Only when we equip ourselves with innovative technologies, products and business models, can we say we are helping China become a leading internet power. Strong government support is one of China's edges. Besides, we have the world's largest internet population and a thriving internet industry.
A3 Artificial intelligence will be the next big thing. Because of AI, the mobile internet is about to take a further leap to become the smart internet. Consumer electronic products will also become smarter because big data will empower them with self-learning ability. Driven by the joint force of AI and the internet, hard-ware manufacturers and solution providers will become increasingly intertwined and evolve into service providers that thrive on the business model of Devices plus Cloud plus Service.
A4 Opportunities still abound in China. It is still a gold mine and we can always create new market demand and new opportunities, even by reorganizing the existing resources. It is true that as investments cool down, companies are facing challenges, but we should speed up efforts to train our wings. Full-fledged enterprises can survive unforgiving environment and they know how to predict the market trend and adjust their businesses accordingly.
A5 We have seen major breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence. It is getting out of laboratories and the professional community. It is becoming a topic for everyone. The historic victory by AlphaGo over the human world champion of the ancient strategy game Go showcased the huge potential of AI. Major firms are all scrambling to establish a beachhead in the industry. AI will revolutionize the internet sector.
Chen Liming, chairman of IBM Greater China Group
A1 China's economic transformation is like a rebirth of internal strength. It aims to thoroughly remould itself. Currently, the macroeconomy sustains a steady growth. On the micro level, however, China is experiencing fast changes. Internet innovation is the emerging force that plays a catalytic and supporting role in reshaping China's economy.
A2 China's advantage lies in its huge internet population and its industry scale. But the internet sector is highly globalized. Measuring industry scale by country is a mindset of the industrial age and may not be a good benchmark in the internet era. Only by cultivating bigger global influence can Chinese firms help push the country's internet industry to a new height.
A3 "Disruption" is not an appropriate word to describe the interaction between new technology and traditional industries. The two are, in fact, contributing to each other's development. When looking forward to the next big thing, it's better to look to new technology such as artificial intelligence, block chain and virtual reality. Personally, I pay more attention to AI and cognitive science. Based on IBM's experience in more than 20 industries including healthcare, environmental protection, finance and manufacturing, we believe cognitive technology, represented by IBM's Watson, can greatly enhance individuals and organizations' competence, promote the development of each industry and help improve every one's life quality.
A4 I won't comment or predict the "temperature" of the capital market. But it is worth pointing out that the IT industry is currently driven by active technological innovation and boasts huge opportunities. Hard work, rather than hype, is needed to make the most of these opportunities. Be optimistic and down-to-earth. That's what we need.
A5 We have seen many technological breakthroughs in the past year in sectors such as cognitive science and block chain technologies. But I want to highlight a breakthrough in basic science. In August, IBM found a way to put a single bit of data on a 12-atom surface, creating the world's smallest magnetic storage device and boosting the current storage density by nearly 100,000 times. Before that, it required 1 million atoms for such storage. If the technology is put into use, we could store 30,000 full-length HD movies in one cell phone. And this would definitely have a revolutionary influence on the future digital life of human beings.
Harry Shum, executive vice-president of Microsoft
A1 The shift in China's economy toward an innovation-led development model will create huge demand for internet-connected technologies that help companies transform their operations and improve efficiency. These technologies enable new business models and new drivers of economic growth. The Internet of Things will play a vital role in the digital transformation of China's manufacturing industries.
A2 China has firmly established itself as a center for innovation and global internet leadership, especially in the mobile internet space. China's internet industry enjoys especially strong support from a policy perspective, as the government is actively promoting digital transformation across a wide range of industries while at the same time working to establish a market environment that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship. In terms of challenges, China must continue to invest in programs and implement policies that encourage innovation, such as the improvement of IP protection.
A3 Increasingly intelligent technologies will help accelerate the process of digital transformation that is already underway across a wide spectrum of industries. In the future, I believe every company will be, in many ways, an internet company. The integration of internet technologies and industry has the potential to provide China with a huge economic boost, especially in the manufacturing sector which has been one of the primary beneficiaries of advances in IoT technology and data intelligence.
A4 Startup companies bring innovative new ideas to the IT industry, so it's important that they have the necessary capital and technology resources to grow and reach their true potential. Despite the global economic slowdown, at Microsoft we are continuing to invest in empowering startups. In China, we have been running the Microsoft Accelerator program for four years, which provides qualifying top startups with four to six months of Acceleration and GTM resources. I expect this innovation and entrepreneurship enthusiasm will continue going forward in 2017.
A5 One area we have seen major breakthroughs in the past year is artificial intelligence. Advancements in voice and image recognition technologies has given rise to a new application platform that consist of digital assistants, chatbots, and conversation. With a new app model that's so powerful that it can unleash the full potential of mobile and cloud.
Derek Shen, global vice-president and China president of LinkedIn
A1 China is currently undergoing a shift in perception, from "made in China" to "created in China", from "population boon" to "talent boon". Whereas before, the emphasis was on productivity, the emphasis now is on innovation and entrepreneurship.
A2 A pertinent analogy is that the internet landscape is comprised of two poles, China and the United States. Both the US and China have huge local markets, abundant venture capital resources, large technology talent pools and great entrepreneurial cultures. China is quite adept at business model innovation while US companies strive to pursue pushing the boundaries of technology.
A3 I believe that AI will become the next transformative trend. That is, artificial intelligence will become one of the high-tech that will lead us into the next decade or beyond.
A4 But before "capital winters" there will be a "capital summer", which means that there will be a time where there is too much capital in the market. This also means that there were a lot of great seeds planted, seeds of innovation and entrepreneurship. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, this "capital winter" can be a good thing, because before we can reap what has been sown, the fittest must have survived the winter. Those that survive will have a solid model, a strong team, and the financial capability to support its model. The "temperature" of the internet in 2017 will, in fact, follow a natural course. Spring will inevitably follow winter.
A5 We've seen in the past year, there has been a rising new concept, which is artificial intelligence. We predict that AI will lead the future of our technological developments, and the era of artificial intelligence will extend for a very long period of time. In the future, every aspect of our daily lives can be influenced or affected by artificial intelligence and the transformation it will bring to our lives.
Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial Services Group
A1 New technologies are driving the innovation of all industries in China. And innovation in turn drives the growth of China's economy amid its transition from being investment-reliant to consumption-driven.
A2 China owns the world-leading mobile payment technology. This reflects how much we've grown with self-dependent innovation. Besides the development of technology, the various application scenarios are another advantage we have to become an "internet power". America is still leading scientific innovation trends, building technological barriers that are difficult for Chinese companies to break down. So the companies must gain an international perspective and work harder, and the government and society also need to help create a more tolerant and friendly environment for companies to innovate in.
A3 The next "whirlwind" will emerge in the application field of technologies, instead of the technologies themselves. As more constantly being applied, the innovative technologies will deeply integrate with other industries, finance included, generating opportunities for both internet companies and traditional industries to grow.
A4 The "investment woes" are actually a result of the "law of the jungle" in the market area. Some startups divert too much energy making up good stories to the investors rather than properly managing risks. They will be abandoned by the market eventually. Instead, the "fittest ones" that can survive are companies with a clear value proposition－they are client-oriented, and can keep a continuous growth path.
A5 I personally favor the possibilities that artificial intelligence can bring to our world. We have widely adopted technology in our businesses like security control, credit risk management, insurance pricing and customer service.
Sun Jie, chief operating officer of Ctrip
A1 Innovation can give an impetus to China's economic transition. Particularly, innovation in the internet industry has brought profound changes to the Chinese economy and its consumers. It has been proven in Ctrip.
A2 Internet power is in fact a power of technology and innovation. I think there is a key component of measuring internet power, that is whether it can provide better services to its consumers and meet their needs. So when China aspires to be an internet superpower, it is necessary to improve the service capabilities of internet companies. China is a large nation of great population, which creates a huge market scale and potential and a large talent pool for the growth of internet industry. These are important foundation for China moving toward an internet power.
A3 Every industry can be influenced by innovation and new technology. In the short term, we have been witnessing the explosive growth of mobile internet. Similarly, we will possibly see the expansion of artificial intelligence, upgrading robots, VR/AR and so forth. But eventually whether they will become the hotspot or not will be tested by time and market.
A4 The "capital winter" happens to be a great investment opportunity for excellent companies like Ctrip. We can tell that from our performance on the Nasdaq and from our yearly financial report. No matter what, Crtip is looking a warm market in 2017. As more and more Chinese people are traveling abroad, we still expect growth in the online travel market.
A5 Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics turn out surprising. Those technologies will change the environment of the whole industry for the benefit of online travel agents. More importantly, they can create a better booking experience for customers when lowering down the booking fees.
Shen Ya, CEO of Vip.com
A1 The internet has reshaped the Chinese economy in two ways: it stimulates the overall growth of the innovation business as a strategically new industry; it propels the transformation and upgrading of traditional industry as an innovative technology. The internet makes information-based services accessible to the public, in turn making mass entrepreneurship and innovation possible.
A2 China is an internet behemoth and will be an internet superpower in the future. To realize the transition, we need to integrate the newest technology with other social and economic components. China has the world's largest internet user volume and internet-friendly policy. This is a great advantage over other nations. But the transition can be painful, especially when it comes to the transformation of traditional industries.
A3 Internet companies with tremendous data will become a rich resource in the future. We will use that data to improve personalized marketing and create a flexible supply chain based on sales prospects, in favor of the supply-side reform strategy.
A4 The internet is less active or dynamic this year, compared with how it was in the past two years when the whole industry was booming. The capital market's cool down, however, can speed up a reshuffle of this industry and help eliminate the less qualified players, to let the companies with real innovations emerge.
A5 Online-to-offline platforms are merging, live video streaming and cyber celebrity economy are booming, e-commerce platforms and social websites are integrating. Meanwhile, the "individual power" has been fully cultivated and highly valued, and can even become influential intellectual property. The once comprehensive and platform-type internet is becoming personalized and specialized.
Zhao Weiguo, chairman of Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd
A1 The internet itself is a result of innovation, and innovation is the engine that drives China's economic transformation. In return, the internet industry will also definitely speed up innovations in our country.
A2 Leading "internet powers" feature ubiquitous networks, connectivity and big data. China has a well-developed internet infrastructure and a vast amount of netizens, which can help it grow into a leading internet power. But it is also facing challenges. China lacks core technologies to outcompete others. We excel in applying the internet to solve problems and we are good at coming up with innovative business models, but we are weak in research and development of core technologies.
A3 Obviously, the finance industry is most likely to be reshaped by the internet and big data technology, so I believe internet finance will be the next big opportunity. To some extent, in fact, it is already booming. Virtual reality and argumented reality are also the next gold mine.
A4 The so called "winter" of the capital market in 2016 is the result of bursting bubbles in the industry. But it has no impact on Tsinghua Unigroup's business. Next year, I believe investors will be even more calm and soberminded.
A5 In 2016, VR and AR industries are emerging rapidly. I think this trend will have far-reaching and long-lasting influence on our future life.
Yan Haifeng, president of Tuniu
A1 The internet has become the "new engine" to drive China's economic reform, as it encouraged innovations in technology, services and enterprises, generating far-reaching impact on the transition and upgrade of Chinese economy and society.
A2 China now has the biggest netizen population in the world, with the network infrastructure, internet companies, internet culture and cyber law-enforcement booming. However, some challenges still exist. First, we have to make an extra effort in law-enforcement in cyber space and perfect the management system. Then we will attract more talents and own the core technology and essential resources. Still, we must enhance international cooperation, benefiting the whole world with joint power.
A3 The next big challenges for internet companies will be in the service sector, expansion of the global market, and building a service ecosystem on a global scale.
A4 The internet industry is facing an unprecedented opportunity thanks to the Chinese government's "Internet Plus" strategy. Facing the cooling down trend of investment, internet startups should concentrate more on innovation both in business model and technology to maintain sustainable development. They should put great value on users' needs and interests and build a good industry image to attract investment again.
A5 The growth of the mobile internet. Let's take Tuniu as an example. Its second-quarter results show Tuniu's app has been downloaded over 700 million times, 120 million more times than the first quarter. Registered users can use the app via tablet and smartphone to choose group tours, DIY travel, cruises, as well as book flights, train tickets, hotels, obtain visas and so on.
Xiao Hong, CEO of Perfect World Co Ltd
A1 To a certain extent, internet or innovation can serve as the new engine for China's economic transition and upgrading, the core of which lies on the improvement of resources allocation and efficiency enhancement. The advocated Internet Plus, more precisely speaking, is "internet plus change", meaning rebirth for certain industries.
A2 Whether a country is an internet power is basically determined by its overall national strength. Enjoying the advantages of the world's largest internet users and several world's top 10 internet companies, China is on its path to becoming an internet power. Some challenges, however, are plaguing China. Many internet companies lack innovation, resulting in the emergence of plagiarism, imitation or even vicious competition.
A3 In next few years, the gaming industry may be completely subverted due to the rapid development of virtual technology. Thanks to the maturity of artificial intelligence and prevalence of the Internet of Things, more intelligent unmanned vehicles emerge and it is likely to have a leap-style development. Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly a field in the eye of future technology.
A4 The so-called "capital winter" is a more rational and prudent change in the capital market. Investors are no longer blind as the past, but more mature to pay attention to specific projects. However, typically reflected as a lack of innovation, our internet market is still not sufficiently impetuous to win the favor of capital, resulting in an ostensible capital winter. The "capital winter" tends to be a turning point for startups, as it teach them a lesson on how to gain access to better resources at a low cost, so that we may usher in a warm 2017.
A5 Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly the biggest surprise brought by new technology. Now, not only the AlphaGo and artificial intelligence research by Microsoft and Facebook are fruitful, but also China has made great progress in recent years. Moreover, AI tends to be applied in a vast range of fields, including the internet, medicine, manufacture and so on.