Note: This issue of Interconnected Weekly covers the period between June 8-14, 2020, with six news stories – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources – hand-picked by your humble author to further our exploration of the interconnections between technology, business, investment, and geopolitics. All translated article titles are done by me; they are not official translations from the media outlets.

ByteDance Cuts Domestic Engineers' Data Access to TikTok, Other Overseas Products” (English Source: PingWest)

My Thoughts: From both a technical and geopolitical perspective, this is the most fascinating story of the week. ByteDance’s global traction, combined with its already sizable user case in China, makes it one of the most valuable private tech companies in the world. Its valuation is larger than Twitter, Snap, and Pinterest combined, and its headcounts are growing everywhere to meet that expectation. How do you wall off different engineer teams from accessing different databases of different products will be an immense technical challenge to implement. How effectively and transparently can ByteDance carry through with that implementation will, of course, influence how well it can alleviate geopolitical concerns from the U.S., India, and other large markets. If successful, it’ll be a playbook many Chinese tech companies with global ambitions will emulate.

Zoom closed account of U.S.-based Chinese activist ‘to comply with local law’” (English Source: Axios)

My Thoughts: Zoom’s challenges and difficulties in navigating the new terrains of being a consumer-facing product reaches a new height of controversy with this news. Perhaps not surprisingly, this news received no attention in the various Chinese language news sources I regularly read (if you have seen any, please send them my way!). How Zoom design its global policy, due out in its soon-to-be published transparency report, will determine whether Zoom can chart a new path or become yet another American tech company with limited services inside China. Pre-IPO and pre-COVID, Zoom often advertises itself as one of the few videoconferencing products that work well inside and outside of China; that pitch may not be true for much longer.  

U.S. lawmakers propose $22.8 billion in aid to semiconductor industry” (English Source: Reuters)

My Thoughts: this development comes less than one month after SMIC received a $2.2 billion USD equity investment from Chinese government-affiliated funds. In last week’s Interconnected Weekly, I also referenced SMIC’s intention to publicly-list in Shanghai’s new STAR exchange as an example of “Patriotic IPO”. It’s worth noting that this $22.8 billion USD is: 1. Still a proposal; 2. A form of government aid, not an investment, where the government becomes a stakeholder with the possibility of generating financial returns for the taxpayers. Being a staunchly free market economy, it’s politically untenable for the U.S. government to take equity stakes in companies, given that it will look like “socialism”. Yet, it clearly recognizes the semiconductor industry as one of national and strategic importance in need of government support and can no longer be left to a pure market economy’s own devices.

Will AliExpress Be Able To Expand the ‘Taobao Livestream’ Model Overseas?” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)

My thoughts: AliExpress’s ambitious plan to take “livestream e-commerce” globally have many interesting dimensions at play. First, it’s a form of business model export, where the model is increasingly mature in the Chinese domestic market. Second, it’s in the right place at the right time, with COVID-19’s global impact accelerating the adoption of e-commerce and other forms of the digital economy. Third, there are very few non-Chinese competitors to Alibaba/Taobao in this space -- Amazon Live has hardly any traction and Facebook Shop launched last month is in its infancy. This ambition will still take a few years to play out. Whether e-commerce, the least controversial of business verticals, will still trip certain geopolitical wires and get politicized, is what’s worth watching.

Harbin Institute of Technology and Other Chinese Universities Can No Longer Use MATLAB, Are There Open Source Alternatives?” (Chinese Source: Xinzhixun)

My thoughts: This is the first example to my knowledge where the U.S. government’s various export control sanctions on China is impacting Chinese universities in a direct way. Most college students who have ever taken a technical course, whether in the U.S. or China, have used MATLAB to learn and do their homework. As a big proponent of open source technology, I have confidence that a mature open source alternative to MATLAB will emerge soon to meet this new demand, especially given China’s own burgeoning open source ecosystem, which I’ve written about at length before. Will the only entity that actually gets hurt from this sanction MathWorks, the company who developed MATLAB?

Hong Kong vs Shanghai, Where Will Chinese Companies Go To IPO?” (Chinese Source: iponews)

My thoughts: Hong Kong or Shanghai is becoming an increasingly important question for Chinese companies currently listed in New York. There is rumor that Wall Street is trying to lobby President Trump to not sign the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which is still making its way through Congress, arguing that it’ll hurt American investors. Meanwhile, Netease just completed its secondary listing in Hong Kong and is poised to do the same next week; both companies are currently listed on the NASDAQ. Hong Kong is the winning destination so far; Shanghai’s STAR exchange is new, though its various policies appear to be maturing quickly to attract more quality companies, as indicated in this article. Even though Hong Kong’s struggle to maintain its autonomy vis-a-vis Mainland China continues, its ability to attract a global investor base for companies to raise funds has not diminished.

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字节跳动准备禁止国内工程师对TikTok和其他海外产品的数据访问能力”(英文来源: PingWest)


Zoom关闭在美国的中国维权人士的账户“从以遵守当地法律””(英文来源: Axios)

我的想法:Zoom企图成为一款 to C 产品而面临的挑战和困难随着这一消息的公布步入到了新的难点。不奇怪,这条新闻在我经常阅读的各个中文媒体中没有受到关注(如果您看到有关中文文章,麻烦发给我!)。Zoom如何设计产品的全球使用政策,并将在其即将出版的透明度报告中公布,会决定Zoom能否为自己开辟一条新的道路,还是成为另一家在中国境内服务有限的美国科技公司。在公司IPO和疫情开始前,Zoom经常将自己作为少数在中国内外都运作良好的视频会议产品之一而进行宣传;这个宣传点可能不会持续太久了。

美国国会议员提议向半导体产业提供228亿美元援助”(英文来源: 路透社)

我的想法:这个提议在中芯国际(SMIC)从与中国政府有关的各大基金获得22亿美元投资后不到一个月出炉。在上周的 Interconnected Weekly 中,我还提到了中芯国际打算在上海科创板上市,作为一个“爱国IPO”。值得注意的是,这228亿美元的援助:1. 仍然只是一个建议;2. 是以政府援助的形式,而不是有可能为纳税人带来经济回报的直接政府投资。作为一个坚信自由市场经济的美国,政府参股公司在政治舆论上是站不住脚的,因为这看起来太像“社会主义”。然而,美国政府也清楚地认识到,半导体产业是国家和战略上的重要产业之一,需要政府的支持,不能再任由纯粹的自由市场经济自生自灭。

阿里速卖通能在海外复制一个「淘宝直播」吗?” (中文来源: 36氪)

我的想法: 阿里速卖通把淘宝的“直播电商”模式扩散到全球的雄心里很多值得思考的角度。首先,它是一种“商业模式出口”,这个具体模式在中国国内市场已经日益成熟。其次,它正好发生在一个有利的时机和大环境下,COVID-19的全球影响加速了世界各地对电商和其他形式的数字化经济的接受程度。第三,阿里加淘宝在这一领域几乎没有非中国公司的竞争对手:Amazon Live几乎没什么人用,上个月刚推出的Facebook Shop还处于起步阶段。这个雄心壮志还需要几年时间才能成型。电商作为最没有争议的商业领域,是否仍会被大国地缘关系问题而绊倒从而被政治化,是值得关注的。

哈工大等高校被禁用MATLAB,哪些开源软件可以替代?”  (中文来源: 芯智讯)


港交所和科创板,中概股会选择谁?”  (中文来源: 独角兽早知道)