Cy­ber big shots gather

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Meng Jing RE­PORTER’S LOG Con­tact the writer at mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Lead­ers of China’s top IT en­ter­prises meet the press at the an­nual World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, on Thurs­day. From Left: Pony Ma, Founder and CEO of Ten­cent; Ding Lei, founder and CEO of NetEase; Yang Yuan­qing, CEO of Len­ovo Group; Zhang Yim­ing, CEO of Toutiao.com; and Gu Yongqiang of Alibaba Group.

As a busi­ness jour­nal­ist, I think of money all the time. I’ve been trained to de­velop a “nose for news” — to sniff out, like a hound, any­thing that can in­flu­ence in­vestors and mar­kets.

So, more often than not, I ask ques­tions that some re­cip­i­ents may find rude. Like: Hello, how much did your com­pany make last year? Do you have a fea­si­ble busi­ness model? Where do you plan to get the fund­ing for the next round of ex­pan­sion?

I’ve writ­ten many sto­ries on how in­no­va­tion can drive eco­nomic growth, how the in­ter­net and big data are the new in­fra­struc­ture that will boost GDP growth, how the in­ter­net can do this and how the web can ac­com­plish that.

So many sto­ries that some­times I for­get there’s an­other way to look at the in­ter­net in­dus­try. Which is why events like the on­go­ing Wuzhen in­ter­net con­fer­ence are im­por­tant. They can sen­si­tize you to things that you would oth­er­wise fail to no­tice.

Be­fore I came to Wuzhen, I ex­pected to break big mon­eyre­lated sto­ries. Af­ter all, the high-pro­file in­ter­net con­fer­ence at­tracts many busi­ness ty­coons and bil­lion­aires such as Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma and Ten­cent Hold­ings’ Pony Ma.

But, as it turned out, what truly im­pressed me was sto­ries be­yond money and in­vest­ments.

At the Light of the In­ter­net Ex­po­si­tion that opened on Tues­day, a startup that show­cased its prod­uct in a cor­ner caught my at­ten­tion.

Its prod­uct was an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence or AI-en­abled glove that can trans­late sign lan­guage into voice in a jiffy.

“It is ac­tu­ally quite a ma­ture tech­nol­ogy. But by ap­ply­ing it to trans­late sign lan­guage, we hope to help those who can’t speak find jobs more eas­ily,” said one of the prod­uct developers.

The ir­re­press­ible, cu­ri­ous busi­ness jour­nal­ist in me asked promptly: how much will the prod­uct cost?

“Less than 1,000 yuan ($145),” said the man.

That shocked me to the core.

For, just last week, a record 120 bil­lion yuan in Sin­gles Day (Nov 11) sales on Alibaba’s plat­forms such as Tmall and Taobao showed how con­sump­tion could be key to eco­nomic growth.

And here I am, in Wuzhen, learn­ing that tech­nol­ogy, too, could trans­form lives, strengthen hu­man re­sources and en­er­gize the econ­omy. With less than 1,000 yuan, a price not be­yond ur­ban peo­ple, a per­son’s life can change for the bet­ter.

As I talked to more peo­ple in Wuzhen, more such sto­ries emerged.

For in­stance, one in­ter­net com­pany in Zhe­jiang prov­ince uses in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy to help more pa­tients con­tact doc­tors di­rectly on­line, ob­vi­at­ing long waits at hos­pi­tals.

I checked a lo­cal doc­tor’s pro­file on the plat­form. Pa­tients can ex­plain their symp­toms and, with 10 yuan, get text-based di­ag­no­sis from the doc­tor.

An­other in­spir­ing story: with­out charg­ing any money up­front, Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group of­fers cer­tain ser­vices that make life con­ve­nient. Like: you can rent um­brel­las and por­ta­ble bat­ter­ies in Wuzhen. All you need to have is an ex­cel­lent on­line credit record.

Wuzhen has made me re­al­ize that great busi­ness sto­ries need not al­ways be about money, fi­nance, ty­coons and bil­lion­aires. In­no­va­tors, big or small, known or un­known, also change the world.

Now I see the Wuzhen con­fer­ence theme—“In­no­va­tion­driven In­ter­net De­vel­op­ment for the Ben­e­fit of All”— isn’t some fancy feel-good line but preg­nant with mean­ing. En­trepreneurs who abound here are liv­ing proof of that theme.

I feel priv­i­leged and blessed to be able to record and tell their sto­ries.

ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

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