Hello Interconnected Readers:
I have been heads down writing and publishing the four-part “Global by Nature” series, so I’ve neglected the Interconnected Weekly issue for many weeks -- breaking a ritual. Thus, the six stories commentary you will find below -- three from English sources, three from Chinese sources -- will cover a broader time range than just last week. Going forward, I will also be intentionally highlighting more posts from other quality newsletters -- an untapped well of knowledge and insight that rarely surfaces if you only pay attention to institutional media outlets. (You will see a great post on China’s autonomous driving industry from The China Guys newsletter in this issue.)
[If you’d like to skip ahead to the six news stories and commentaries – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources -- here are this issue’s items:
- “Driving to the Future: Beijing’s Bet on Autonomous Vehicles” (English Source: The China Guys)
- “Tesla-Style Rally Puts Chinese Electric-Vehicle Makers on Par With GM, Ford” (English Source: Wall Street Journal)
- “Expansion into enterprise markets drives AWS re:Invent machine learning debuts” (English Source: SiliconAngle)
- “Pinduoduo: Quietly carrying a big stick” (Chinese Source: China Venture News)
- “The five important people behind Zhang Yiming” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)
- “Toyota President: If all cars run on electricity, Japan will have no electricity in the summer” (Chinese Source: Tencent Tech News)]
As we approach the end of arguably one of the most consequential years in human history, I’ve been thinking a lot about rituals in general. Rituals create rich cultures and traditions, but also mindless defaults and intellectual laziness. “Why do we do what we do” is a question that we don’t ask ourselves enough; COVID-19 has forced us to ask that question about all facets of our lives.
I’ve been working remotely in Hawaii for the last few weeks, living from one Airbnb to another. I would listen to the local Hawaiian radio stations while driving. The other day, I heard from one station that a local survey discovered that there’s a big increase in people who would be totally fine with the rituals around Christmas disappearing forever. These rituals include traveling, cooking a big Christmas dinner, hosting relatives, etc. (A quiet takeout dinner with a good movie would be just fine.) Most of the people who expressed this view, unsurprisingly, are mothers and females in general, who do most of the work to make those things happen. Rituals tend to elevate the imagery, while ignoring the people and work that made the imagery possible.
With the rituals of Christmas and New Year being changed, what will Lunar New Year look like next year? Will the “largest annual human migration” still be as large? Looking beyond the holidays, what will the ritual of going to the office, heading to the gym, people-watching in coffee shops (my personal favorite), or visiting aging parents look like? None of us really know.
Some old rituals will die, while new rituals get created, but we don’t need to wait for a global pandemic to constructively destroy or create. Seven years ago, the year I left the White House to go to law school, I started a holiday email blast to all my friends, ex-colleagues, and other acquaintances with unfiltered personal updates in a “highlight <> lowlight” format (since I don’t believe anything is either 100% good or bad). It was meant to just be a way to stay in touch, since I move around a lot, but over the years it has become the one thing my friends look for and appreciate every year. It’s a new ritual. (After I finish writing this issue, I’ll be working on that email.)
I think it’s healthy to regularly question old rituals, which can be a ritual of the body or of the mind. That process requires not only learning new things, but also un-learning old things.
One of my personal goals for 2021 is to do more un-learning. I look forward to sharing that journey with you.
P.S. since next week is Christmas Week, I will not be publishing next Thursday and Sunday. The next post will be on December 31st.
Before you go on, please check out last week's deep dive post: "Open Source, Open Stats, Open Development"
“Driving to the Future: Beijing’s Bet on Autonomous Vehicles” (English Source: The China Guys)
My Thoughts: This post from a couple of months ago provides a good overview analysis of the autonomous vehicles landscape in China with two leading companies -- Baidu and Didi. (The China Guys team does good work. You can check out their newsletter HERE.) One term that we will see a lot more of is MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service), which is both a market, a product, and a tech stack to enable self-driving and more comprehensive connectivity in vehicles. This is an area that China may be leading the world soon, not necessarily because its central government wants it, but because its consumers want it. “Connectivity” -- being able to connect to WeChat, download apps, watch online entertainment, etc. directly in a car -- is a high-priority feature for the Chinese consumers when shopping for a car. In addition to Baidu and Didi, I would also put Tesla and XPeng on the “watch list” of China’s autonomous vehicles market. As I discussed in “Tesla, China, the “Tech Cold-War”, Tesla is aggressively hiring technical talent to do “original engineering” in China, much of that is self-driving related. XPeng is also known to be making heavy investments in its self-driving tech stack. Though if you ask Elon, those “investments” are just stolen old code.
“Tesla-Style Rally Puts Chinese Electric-Vehicle Makers on Par With GM, Ford” (English Source: Wall Street Journal)
My Thoughts: Stolen code or not, the Chinese EV makers’ stock prices have been skyrocketing, making the category one of the most popular speculative targets for retail investors, as this WSJ article has shown in its interviews. Of course, we’ve also had Nikola and Fisker, so Chinese companies aren’t the only ones riding the “Tesla tailwind” (and later suffering from the eventuality of gravity). With Joe Biden pledging to return to the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency, how EVs fit within the geopolitical dynamics among nations will become that much more interesting. The gas-powered vehicles of the present and past are dominated by American, German, and Japanese car makers. My hunch is China will be among the top three in EVs manufacturing, whether the other countries like it or not.
“Expansion into enterprise markets drives AWS re:Invent machine learning debuts” (English Source: SiliconAngle)
My Thoughts: Because of the pandemic, AWS’s marquee annual event, re:Invent, was a virtual conference that lasted three weeks! (It’s more like a virtual nerdy summer camp about cloud computing.) It’s impossible to read about all the announcements from a re:Invent, though I do recommend SiliconAngle’s coverage if you want to try. I share this one SiliconAngle article, because it highlights an astounding fact: 92% of cloud-based TensorFlow and 91% of cloud-based PyTorch run on AWS. TensorFlow and PyTorch are two of the most popular machine learning frameworks. Both are open source. TensorFlow came out of Google, PyTorch came out of Facebook, yet developers appear to be running them mostly on AWS. As I discussed in-depth in “Global by Nature (Part I): Developers”, developers are the most important demographic in the era of a technology-driven Globalization 2.0. They have a global persona and outlook, and will increasingly decide what technology gets used where. AWS has been developer-focused since its early days -- an approach that’s paying off handsomely.
“Pinduoduo: Quietly carrying a big stick” (Chinese Source: China Venture News)
My thoughts: Pinduoduo quietly rolled out its own payment product, Duoduo Wallet, with an eye to finally expand into financial services. It acquired the required payment license a year ago by buying a company called Fufeitong, who had the license. The big launch will happen in the upcoming Lunar New Year, where Pinduoduo secured an official partnership with the New Year Banquet TV Gala to promote Duoduo Wallet via a red packet giving program. This playbook was pioneered by Tencent during the New Year Banquet TV Gala in 2015, when it promoted its then-new, now-ubiquitous WeChat Pay. Currently, most of the payment processing on Pinduoduo is done through WeChat Pay. Tencent is also Pinduoduo’s second largest shareholder, adding more intrigue to this anticipated launch.
“The five important people behind Zhang Yiming” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)
My thoughts: Over the last year, ByteDance has become one of the most consequential tech companies in the world, and its founder and CEO, Zhang Yiming, is now one of the most important entrepreneurs to watch. When a company becomes this important, it’s hard to imagine its humble beginning, but all companies had a humble beginning. This article details the story behind the five angel investors who initially helped breathe life into Zhang Yiming’s first creation, Jinri Toutiao. Most investors at the time hated the idea, chalking it up to another Netease or Sohu that had a low ceiling and no chance. The only institutional investor who backed ByteDance was SIG’s China fund (SIG is, of course, Susquehanna International Group, a massive fund founded in Pennsylvania in 1987). The first check was a measly $80,000. When ByteDance was struggling, SIG put in another $1 million in equity investment along with another $1 million in bridge loan to keep the dream alive. Only when the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s DST Global invested in ByteDance did the company land on solid financial footing to grow. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Toyota President: If all cars run on electricity, Japan will have no electricity in the summer” (Chinese Source: Tencent Tech News)
My thoughts: At least one person is not super enthusiastic about a full-blown adoption of EVs. That person is Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, who in his end-of-year press conference explicitly dampened politicians’ enthusiasm for passing legislations to quickly phase out gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. Toyoda’s target is most likely the Japanese politicians, who plan to announce new regulations that would prohibit new ICE cars from being sold starting in 2035. This line of criticism does not mean Toyota is against EVs. In fact, the car maker plans to launch six EV models in the near future. But generating and storing electric power is still a challenging problem. This article specifically mentioned Tesla, which has been tackling this problem for quite some time with products like the Powerwall.
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我最近一直在专注写和出版 "生来全球化" 这个四篇系列，所以有好几周没有写《每周互联》了，打破了一个“仪式”。因此，您将在下面看到的六条新闻和评论 -- 三条原文是英文，三条原文是中文 -- 包括的时间范围不仅是上周。今后，我还会有意分享来自其他好的博客和自媒体的文章。如果只关注大媒体机构，会很容易错过这些刊物里许多有价值的知识和分析。（在本期中，您会看到来自《The China Guys》出版的一篇关于中国无人驾驶行业的文章。）
- “驶向未来：北京押注无人驾驶”（英文来源: The China Guys）
- “特斯拉式的股价飙升使中国电动车制造商与通用、福特齐名”（英文来源: 华尔街日报）
- “拓展企业市场发展推动了 AWS re:Invent 机器学习产品的亮相”（英文来源: SiliconAngle)
- “拼多多，悄悄憋了一个大招” (中文来源: 投中网）
- “张一鸣背后重要的五个人” (中文来源: 36氪）
- “丰田总裁：如果所有汽车都使用电力 日本将在夏季无电可用” (中文来源: 腾讯科技）】
一些旧的仪式会被废除，而新的仪式也会诞生，但我们并不需要等到一场全球大疫情的到来才开始做有建设性地摧毁和创造。 七年前，在我离开白宫去法学院的那一年，我开始给我所有的朋友、前同事和其他熟人发一封节日邮件，以 "亮点<>暗点 "的形式分享自己在过去一年的情况（因为我不相信任何事情是百分之百好或坏的）。本来只是一种想保持联系的方式，因为我经常搬家，但多年来，它已经成为我的朋友们每年都期待和赞赏的一件东西。一种新的仪式。(写完这期《每周互联》后，我就要去写那封邮件啦。)
“驶向未来：北京押注无人驾驶”（英文来源: The China Guys）
我的想法: 这篇几个月前出版的文章是个很好的关于中国无人驾驶汽车格局的概述分析，其中主要讲了两家领头羊，百度和滴滴。 (The China Guys是个值得关注的团队。您可以在这里订阅他们的博文，都是英文。) 我们将看到更多的一个词是MaaS（Mobility-as-a-Service），它既是个市场，是个产品，也是一条技术栈，以实现无人驾驶和更全面的车本身的互联网化功能。这个趋势中国可能很快就会引领世界，不单单是因为政府想要，广大消费者也想要。互联网化功能，比如直接在车内上微信、下载app、看视频等，是中国消费者在选购车时高优先级的需求。除了百度和滴滴，我认为把特斯拉和小鹏列入行业的 "关注名单" 也是合理的。正如我在《特斯拉，中国，“科技冷战”》中所提到的，特斯拉正在中国积极招聘技术人才做"原创工程"，其中很多工作都与无人驾驶有关。众所周知，小鹏也一直在重金投资自己的无人驾驶功能。当然如果你问Elon Musk，这些"投资"只是偷来的旧代码。
我的想法: 不管代码是不是偷的，中国电动车制造商的股价一直在飙升，使该类别股票已经成为散户最受欢迎的投机目标之一，正如这篇华尔街日报文章中的采访所表现的那样。当然也有Nikola和Fisker，所以中国企业不是唯一一批想借助 "特斯拉风口"的公司，（也难免可能会被引力而栽回到地面）。随着拜登承诺在担任总统的第一天就重返巴黎气候变化协议，电动车行业的格局将如何影响各个大国间地缘关系的态势将会变得更加有趣。当下以及过去的汽油车是由美国、德国和日本汽车制造商主导的。我的预感是，无论其他国家是否喜欢，中国将跻身电动车制造的世界前三。
“拓展企业市场发展推动了 AWS re:Invent 机器学习产品的亮相”（英文来源: SiliconAngle)
我的想法：因为疫情，AWS每年的大会re:Invent今年变成了一个长达三周的远程虚拟大会。(它更像是一个执着于云计算的虚拟宅男夏令营。) 每年re:Invent的新闻产品公告太多，无法都读完，不过如果您想试试的话，我推荐SiliconAngle的报道。我分享这篇SiliconAngle的文章，是因为它报道了一个令我有点惊讶的现象：92%的云端TensorFlow和91%的云端PyTorch都运行在AWS上。TensorFlow和PyTorch是两个最流行的机器学习框架。两者都是开源的。TensorFlow出自谷歌，PyTorch出自Facebook，而大多数开发者似乎都在AWS上用它们。我在《生来全球化（第一篇）：开发者》中提到过 ，在科技驱动的“全球化2.0”时代，开发者是最重要的一批人群。他们拥有全球化的视角，并将有越来越大的话语权决定用什么技术，用在哪里。AWS自成立初期就一直以开发者为中心。这种做法已经开始得到丰厚的回报。
“拼多多，悄悄憋了一个大招” (中文来源: 投中网）
“张一鸣背后重要的五个人” (中文来源: 36氪）
我的想法: 在过去的一年里，字节跳动已经成为全球最具影响力的科技公司之一，其创始人兼CEO张一鸣也变成最值得关注的创业者之一。当一家公司变得如此重要的时候，很难想象它卑微的开始，但所有公司都有一个卑微的开始。这篇文章讲了最初支持张一鸣的第一个作品（今日头条）的五位天使投资人背后的故事。当时大多数投资人都没看好这个想法，把它归结为另一个天花板低、没什么机会的网易或搜狐。唯一支持字节的机构投资者是SIG的中国基金（SIG当然就是Susquehanna International Group，一家1987年在宾夕法尼亚州成立的大型基金）。第一张支票只有区区8万美元。当字节举步维艰的时候，SIG又投了100万美元的股权投资加上100万美元的过桥贷款，让梦想得以延续。直到俄罗斯亿万富翁Yuri Milner的DST Global投了字节以后，公司才有了扎实的资本基础得以发展。后来发生的事就不用说了。
“丰田总裁：如果所有汽车都使用电力 日本将在夏季无电可用” (中文来源: 腾讯科技）