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The age of data tech to succeed IT era

Updated: 2017-12-04

Editor's Note: The fourth World Internet Conference, also known as the Wuzhen Summit, began on Sunday in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, and will close on Tuesday.

In the run-up to the event, China Daily reporters Hu Yuanyuan, Ouyang Shijia and Fan Feifei quizzed senior executives from three internet-based businesses that are at the forefront of online innovation. Here, Chen Jin, executive director and CEO of ZhongAn Insurance, Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder, CSO, and chairman of Airbnb China, whose app facilitates home-sharing, and Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi.com Inc, an online entertainment services provider, discuss how the internet is re-shaping innovation and how it will likely influence larger economic forces in the years to come. Excerpts:

How do you view China's role in the global internet arena? In your view, what are the most innovative trends or products in China?

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Chen Jin, CEO of ZhongAn Insurance. [Photo/China Daily]

Chen Jin: The most important characteristics of China's internet development is that a majority of Chinese internet-related enterprises have evolved themselves from "imitators" to "innovators", and their exploration is no longer limited to "application area", but research on infrastructure and technology innovation.
We are delighted to witness more attention has been paid to technologies including AI (artificial intelligence) and blockchain. Meanwhile, research on quantum communication and other infrastructure experienced some achievement by Chinese experts. 

In May 2017, a group of youth from 20 economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative named "four new great inventions" as G-series high-speed trains, Alipay, bicycle-sharing and online shopping.

All this reflects the rise of two vital products and trends: mobile payments and social platforms. Mobile payments provide an innovative platform for the development of e-commerce; and social platforms encourage the innovation of content, which jointly changed the business model of Chinese internet-related companies to a large extent.

Nathan Blecharczyk: China is already one of the leaders in the global internet arena. The sharing economy, closely integrated with the digital economy, is undoubtedly one of the key innovations in recent years. Across the world, China is undoubtedly a leader in the sharing economy.
Mobile-based innovations are changing people's behavior. Mobile payments, news apps and instant messaging are having a profound impact. The combination of digital technology and human interaction is also a remarkable innovation in the Chinese internet. China is stressing people-to-people exchange based on the digital economy. I believe that this will be a key trend in future.

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Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQiyi.com. [Photo/China Daily]

Gong Yu: With the rapid development of China's internet industry, the country has become a world-recognized cyber power with the largest population of internet users and highly developed mobile and fixed network facilities.

Online video, mobile payments, e-commerce, internet finance, together with other internet-based new services and products, have brought great convenience to hundreds of millions of Chinese internet users.

As a participant in the internet entertainment industry, we (at iQiyi.com) have experienced the fast development. We are committed to innovating products and services that we provide, and aim to improve people's spiritual and life qualities.

At the same time, we can also see that the development of China's internet economy is having a greater impact on the global economy. China's internet giants and unicorns (startsups that have grown to be firms with valuations of $1 billion or more each) have already played important roles in the global internet industry, and some of them have expanded their services to overseas markets.

In the future, I believe more Chinese internet-based companies will go abroad, providing Chinese experience and contributing to the global economy.

From your perspective, what are the characteristics of a powerful internet driven country? What do you think are the advantages and challenges that China faces in becoming a powerful internet-friendly economy?

Chen Jin: China has three great advantages which we should never overlook.

First, China has the largest single market based on population and consumption capacity all over the world, which is one of the most important developing features to be a powerful internet country.

Second, China has strong clusters of internet and associated production, including software and hardware manufacturing areas.

Third, we have a young generation of knowledge-seekers and innovators, which is also very important for a country's internet development.

And, of course, there are some challenges we have to think about and overcome in order to move forward.

For example, we still have a long way to go in terms of fully preparing ourselves with a perfect legal environment. Generally speaking, investment in basic research is still insufficient.

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Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder, CSO, and chairman of Airbnb China. [Photo/China Daily]

Nathan Blecharczyk: A powerful internet nation is one that embraces innovation such as the sharing economy. This is where Airbnb sees China's strength. The past three decades have shown that China is a vibrant economic environment that has allowed businesses and industries to flourish. China has opened, and is continuing to open, to foreign enterprises.

China's leadership offers solid backing and policy support for the internet industry and sharing economy. A big positive in this regard is the Chinese government's rich experience in formulating industry-friendly policy. This offers a strong reference point. Governments the world over should learn from it.

Gong Yu: China is currently transforming itself into a leading internet power.

President Xi Jinping recently said at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that the country would promote deep integration of the internet, big data, artificial intelligence into the real economy.

In other words, in the future, the internet and other related technologies will promote the continuous transformation and upgrade of the real economy through integration with other industries, and thus lay a solid foundation for sustained economic growth.

This is also the way China must go to become a leading cyber power.

Thanks to the government's open attitude and supportive policies as well as the steady growth of the overall economy, China's internet industry has experienced rapid development in recent years.

In order to sustain the long-term development of the internet-based industry, China needs to adhere to technological innovations and attach more importance to the establishment of talent training mechanisms. That would provide continuous driving power for the long-term development of China's internet industry.

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