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 JD.com 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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注:本期《每周互联》总结概括的时间段是:2020年6月8至14日,包括本作者挑选的六条新闻:三条原文是英文,三条原文是中文,来帮助我们继续探索科技、商业、投资和地缘政治之间的相互联系。所有翻译的文章标题都是我做的翻译,不是媒体来源的官方翻译。


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)

我的想法:无论从技术还是地缘政治的角度来看,这是本周最值得思考和关注的新闻。字节跳动在全球影响力,以及它在中国现有的规模,使它已经成为世界上估值最高的未上市科技公司之一,总估值已经超过了Twitter、Snap和Pinterest的总和。为了满足估值的期望,它的员工数量也在各地迅速增长。如何隔离不同的工程团队访问不同产品的不同数据库将是一个巨大的技术挑战。这项计划能否既有效又透明地实施,将影响到公司能否很好地调解来自美国、印度和其他市场对它的各种担忧和管制。如果成功,字节跳动的内部技术管制设计将成为所有有全球野心的中国科技公司会去效仿的蓝图。

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。电商作为最没有什么争议的商业领域,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)

我的想法:这是据我所知的第一个自从美国政府对中国的各种技术出口制裁开始后对中国高校有直接影响的例子。无论是在美国还是在中国,大多数上过任何工科课程的大学生都用MATLAB学习做功课。因为我个人很看好开源技术这个大方向,所以我相信一个成熟的可以替代MATLAB的开源项目将很快出现,以满足这一新需求,尤其考虑到中国国内正在蓬勃发展的开源生态。(关于“中国开源”这个话题,我也写了许多文章。)最终因制裁而倒霉的难道也就是开发MATLAB的MathWorks吗?

港交所和科创板,中概股会选择谁?”  (中文来源: 独角兽早知道)

我的想法:去香港还是去上海,已经成为现在在纽约上市的中国公司的一个日益重要的问题。有传闻称,华尔街正试图游说特朗普总统不要签署《外国公司控股责任法案》(该法仍在走国会两院通过的流程)。华尔街认为此法案会伤害美国投资者。与此同时,网易刚刚在香港完成了二级上市。下周,京东的二级上市也会正是开盘。这两家公司目前都在纳斯达克上市。目前来看,香港还是最佳选择。上海的科创板还太新,尽管据文章指出,它的许多政策正在迅速成熟,以吸引更多的优质公司。香港与大陆之间关于自制的斗争仍在继续,但其吸引全球投资者来港交投资的能力似乎并未减弱。

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