A big part of my learning process is listening to audio products – audiobooks, podcasts, earnings calls, investors presentations. I can glean a lot of nuances from listening that are missing from reading transcripts, though listening does take more time.
One overlooked genre I listen to frequently is Chinese language podcasts focused on technology, business, and investing. (There used to be some good ones focused on politics and culture, but they are no longer around for obvious reasons.)
Some of these podcasts get great guests – scientists, researchers, engineers, or business operators of Chinese descent – many of whom are working on the frontlines of generative AI, cross-border tech products, etc. either in Big Tech firms in both the US and China or hot startups. You will never see these people get invited to pontificate on a Lex Fridman episode or a CNBC segment, but they possess first-hand knowledge and experience of what’s happening on the ground. There’s a ton of alpha to be gained in learning from practitioners.
Since a few readers have asked me for Chinese language podcast recommendations, I’ll share four today that are in my regular rotation and produce new episodes regularly.
Zhang Xiaoyun’s Business Podcast (张小珺Jùn｜商业访谈录)
Zhang Xiaoyun is one of my favorite tech journalists in China. She writes high-quality long-form articles that all seem well-sourced and, most of all, beautifully and entertainingly written. One of my favorites was her dissection of TikTok’s product history and global expansion strategy, which I expanded upon in a post last year.
Her podcast takes a similar approach. They are mostly longform interviews, in some ways similar to Kara Swisher’s Recode/Decode, but less aggressive in tone. While most of her episodes are (obviously) in Chinese, she has done a few English interviews too, with Sebastian Mallaby (who wrote “The Power Law” and other great books on financial history) and Terrence Sejnowski (a renowned deep learning academic).
This podcast is hosted by two VC investors focused on SaaS, enterprise technology, and cloud infrastructure. The format is interview style and similar to the many (many) English podcasts, hosted by many (many) American VCs. One of my recent favorite episodes is an panel interview on all dimensions of generative AI with a senior AI researcher from Microsoft, an R&D executive of an AI startup, and one of the main authors of the paper, “Sparks of Artificial General Intelligence: Early experiments with GPT-4” – a good example of insights from “the doers”, not “the storytellers”.
What's Next (科技早知道)
This podcast produces more of a news-of-the-day type content, where the host interviews Chinese tech journalists or investors or operators on whatever is the trending topic of the moment. These topics are not limited to news that only happen in China or apply to Chinese entrepreneurs (like this CFIUS episode), but also include buzzy tech happenings around the world, from Reddit’s conflict with its mods to Apple’s Vision Pro release. I think it’s worthwhile to hear what the Chinese tech circle thinks of US tech news, to build a different perspective.
Crazy Capital (疯投圈)
This is a podcast also hosted by two experienced Chinese VCs. Their focus is more on consumer tech, e-commerce, content, and social media, which are not my focus, so I only listen to it sparingly. But when I do, I usually get some good perspectives on the broader economic trends in China, as well as tidbits on what’s cool and what’s not.
To get the most information (dare I say, alpha) out of these podcasts, you would not only have to be a fluent Chinese listener, but also might need to stay up to date on trendy Chinese internet lingos or engineering slangs, especially if you listen to episodes with more technical discussions. They are also good practice grounds for (relatively advanced) Chinese learners.
If you are not a Chinese speaker and don't plan to become one, there are good AI tools out there to transcribe and translate these podcasts to English, whether into text or synthetic audio, so you can at least get the gists.
Are there other quality Chinese language podcasts you listen to? If so, please share!