This issue covers the period between October 12 - 18, 2020 with six news stories – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources. Disclaimer: all translated article titles are done by me, not official translations from the media outlets.
Before you go on, please check out last week's deep dive post: "China's Cloud Ceiling"
“A Senate committee wants to subpoena the tech CEOs over that New York Post story” (English Source: Protocol)
My Thoughts: The drama over how a New York Post story on Hunter Biden (Vice President Joe Biden’s son) was treated on Facebook and Twitter was big news last week. I won’t regurgitate what happened; there are better places on the Internet to go if you need to get caught up. I’m highlighting this impending Senate subpoena, led by three Republican Senators (Rubio, Graham, Hawley) of Zuckerberg and Dorsey, because it will be an important one to watch, arguably more important than the antitrust bonanza that featured Bezos, Cook, Pichai, and (again) Zuckerberg. While antitrust deals with the economic impact of tech, how to regulate tech companies’ proper role in moderating speech, expression, and information has a far-reaching impact on culture, democracy, and how a society should function. Needless to say Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, where most social media companies harbor themselves safely, needs to be updated; the big question is how. As I’ve discussed a few months ago in “Algorithm is the Problem, Not Mark Zuckerberg”:
“While we aim our anger, frustration, and blame at these CEOs, the algorithms that fuel their social networks -- imbued with the features engineered by human beings with their own intentions, emotions, and biases -- have become far more powerful and well beyond their control. But these algorithms are faceless, opaque, and harder to reason about, thus harder for us to blame.”
Any updated regulation will have to grasp the algorithmic nature of both content recommendation and content moderation.
“This 2020 Apple iPhone may be assembled in India” (English Source: Times of India)
My Thoughts: The unveiling of iPhone 12 was the other big tech news last week. While the focus on these announcements usually center on new features and capabilities, where this phone will be manufactured could be the bigger long-term story. The conversation around “decoupling” from China’s manufacturing base has been going on for quite some time, intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. I was initially skeptical of how quickly this “decoupling” will occur, especially with regard to Apple, which I wrote about in “Is Leaving the China Supply Chain a Pipe Dream?”. Now, it looks like all of Apple’s major manufacturers -- Foxconn, Wistron -- are building factories to assemble more and more portions of the iPhone in India. To be clear, Apple’s desire to diversify the geography of its supply chain began a few years ago -- Wistron has been assembling low-end iPhones since 2017. But India’s manufacturing quality wasn’t good enough to make the latest models; perhaps that has changed. There’s also the simple business imperative to sell more iPhones. Non-iPhone smartphones have a 90% market share in India. India also has restrictions on selling smartphones that aren’t made domestically. That’s why lower-end smartphones from Samsung and Xiaomi already have a manufacturing base in India. To sell more iPhones in India, Apple needs to make more iPhones in India. Period. We shouldn’t over-apply geopolitics to explain everything.
“Huawei in talks to sell parts of its Honor smartphone business” (English Source: Reuters)
My Thoughts: This revelation by Reuters was a bit surprising to me, because Huawei’s Honor phone is its cheaper product line with lower margin but also lower performance requirements. If US sanctions are the reason for this possible sale, I would have imagined Huawei’s higher-end line -- Mate -- would be the one to go, because it’s much harder to buy the type of chips needed to power Mate than Honor. One possible explanation: Huawei is trying to keep Mate alive and competitive by consolidating its internal resources and R&D focus. The leading suitor of this sale, Digital China, is also surprising, because it’s a big Huawei’s product distributor, not a competing brand, like Xiaomi or Oppo, though they are part of the sale discussion as well. (More on Digital China below)
“Honor’s sale mystery: Digital China to participate in the takeover as distributor and brands save themselves?” (Chinese Source: Tencent Tech News)
My thoughts: Besides being skeptical of Honor’s sale, chalking it up as more rumor than real, this article summarized the long history of Chinese tech product distributors, like Digital China, to explain why a distributor would want to buy a brand like Honor. These distributors first got started helping foreign brands sell into China, like the gigantic Motorola cell phone. Then China’s domestic brands, which blossomed in 1998 when the government issued a policy to accelerate telecom advancement, came on the scene. The distributor’s relevance has been eroding in the last 10 years, and a big reason was Xiaomi’s innovative distribution model of going direct-to-consumer, e-commerce style, to sell its smartphones. Fast forward to today, Digital China, who was an OG in the distributor space and a public company listed in Shenzhen, is looking for ways to reinvent itself. Given Huawei’s current weakness and existing strong business relationship (Digital China also distributes Huawei Cloud), perhaps both selling and owning Honor doesn’t seem like such a strange idea after all. (For those readers who read Chinese, there are also a few fun puns in this article. I love puns!)
“Top lithography machines sell for nearly 1.2 billion RMB! Chinese companies can only buy a different type.” (Chinese Source: China Securities Journal)
My thoughts: The Dutch company, ASML, is the market leader in lithography equipment -- a crucial element in advanced semiconductor manufacturing. Based on this article’s digging of ASML’s latest earning call, its topline EUV equipment cost 1.2 billion RMB a piece (~$180 million USD). Also, Taiwan made up 47% of its revenue (up 26%), mainly generated by TSMC, while South Korea’s portion decreased from 38% to 26%, quarter over quarter. More crucially, ASML’s EUV equipment appears to be off limits to Mainland China purchasers due to US sanctions. However, it can still sell its less-advanced DUV equipment to China. What’s the difference? DUV can only make chips as small as 25nm, while EUV is capable of making chips smaller than 10nm.
“MiniSo successfully went public in the US, opening day up over 23%! The world's largest private label retailer” (Chinese Source: iponews)
My thoughts:this new IPO by yet another Chinese tech company on the NYSE continues to challenge the narrative of “delisting”. I don’t know much about MiniSo, other than that it’s an e-commerce marketplace targeted at selling small, private brands. The larger story is perhaps Wall Street’s role in the ongoing US-China tension. It already lost the marquee listing of Ant Group, who chose to do a dual-listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai instead. Regardless of how much Washington hates Chinese companies, New York bankers will continue to fight for the huge business of taking companies public -- many of which will come from China.
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我的想法：纽约邮报关于亨特·拜登（副总统拜登的儿子）的报道在Facebook和Twitter上被“处理”的戏剧性事件是上周的大新闻。我不会反刍发生的事情；如果您需要了解整个事件的来龙去脉，互联网上有更好的信息来源。我分享这条即将由三位共和党参议员(Rubio、Graham、Hawley)带领的参议院听证、传呼Zuckerberg和Dorsey的新闻，是因为这个听证的影响深远，甚至比前一阵子以Bezos、Cook、Pichai和(再次)小扎为主角的反垄断听证更重要。虽然反垄断管制的是科技对经济的影响，但是管制科技公司在调节个人言论、表达和信息的适当角色，对文化、民主以及整个社会应该如何运作有着深远的影响。毋庸置疑，让大多数社交媒体公司安全地庇护自己的Communications Decency Act第230条需要更新。然而，更大的问题是如何更新。正如我几个月前在《算法才是问题，不是扎克伯格》一文中所说的：
“这款2020年的苹果iPhone也许会在印度组装”（英文来源: Times of India）
我的想法: iPhone 12的亮相是上周的另一个重大科技新闻。虽然这类公告的焦点通常集中在新功能上，但这款手机将在哪里生产可能是更有长远意义的故事。围绕与中国制造业 "脱钩 "的话题已经持续一段时间了，疫情也加剧各种议论和猜测。我最初对这种 "脱钩 "的速度持怀疑态度，尤其是苹果，我在《离开中国供应链是天方夜谭吗？》中发表了这个观点。现在看似苹果的所有主要制造商 -- 富士康、纬创 -- 都开始在印度投入建厂，以把组装iPhone越来越多的部分放在印度。值得一提的是，苹果对渴望把供应链的地域更多元化已经有几年了。纬创从2017年开始就在印度组装低端iPhone。但印度的制造质量还不够好，无法生产最新model；也许那时候的情况已经变了。还有一个简单直接的商业需求，就是要卖更多的iPhone。非iPhone智能手机在印度有90%的市场份额，印度还限制销售非国内生产的智能手机，这就是为什么三星和小米的低端智能手机已经在印度建立了生产基地。为了在印度卖更多的iPhone，苹果必须在印度生产更多的iPhone，就这么简单。我们也许不该过度用地缘政治的角度来解释一切。
“荣耀出售迷局：神州数码参与接盘 代理商和品牌抱团自救？” (中文来源: 腾讯科技）
“顶级光刻机售价近12亿元！中国企业能随便买的，是另一种” (中文来源: 中国证券报）
“名创优品成功赴美上市，开盘大涨超23%！全球规模最大的自有品牌综合零售商” (中文来源: 独角兽早知道）
我的想法:又一家中国科技公司在纽交所上市，继续挑战 "退市 "这个说法。我对名创优品了解不多，只知道它是一个以销售小型私人品牌为主的电商，更重要的事是华尔街在中美持续紧张状态中的角色。它已经失去了蚂蚁集团上市的生意，因为蚂蚁集团选择了在香港和上海进行双重上市。无论华盛顿有多讨厌中国公司，纽约的投资银行界都会努力争取带公司上市的这门大生意，而这门生意会有很多来源于中国。