Forbes – 9/8/2019 article by Rebecca Fannin on Tech Titans

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Forbes – 9/8/2019 article by Rebecca Fannin on Tech Titans

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A New Era Unfolds From Silicon Dragon To Tech Titans of China

Rebecca Fannin – Sep 8, 2019

I'm asked this question a lot now that I'm on the book tour. And the answer is: No, my new book Tech Titans of China is not an update of my first book, Silicon Dragon.

Silicon Dragon was about the first generation of internet entrepreneurs -- the founders of China's BAT, Robin Li of Baidu in search, Jack Ma of Alibaba in e-commerce and Pony Ma of Tencent in gaming and messaging. My writing then covered the beginnings of China's tech startups and how they originated, mainly by copying many of the finest ideas from Silicon Valley after education and career training at America's best schools and companies.

China went on to become an innovation nation to a degree far more than I could have imagined. My new book covers the new innovators and the sectors that matter most in China's ascent.

I was one of the first American journalists to cover China's entrepreneurial boom. My Silicon Dragon book, published in 2008, was forward-looking but didn't capture the impact that this new tech ecosystem in China would have. Tech has become far more complex and diverse than a decade ago, with the rise of AI, mobile apps, big data, robotics, drones, and the sharing economy. This was only on the horizon then, and not mainstream like it is today.

Back then, no one believed that China could create a parallel Silicon Valley, a Silicon Dragon market. There was tremendous push back by Sand Hill Road investors to the idea that China could be a competitor.

Now, this concept is readily accepted. Today, Sand Hill Road veterans, American technologists, and Washington, DC policy makers regard China as a clear rival to continued global dominance by the U.S. in tech. This is a primary reason we are seeing a tech cold war unfolding between the two superpowers of China and the U.S.

Tech Titans of China delves into a whole new era of innovation that has sprung up, fed by a host of economic factors that combined together to jump start this tech revolution. Venture capital has swelled in China to nearly equal the size of the U.S. market and given rise to 86 unicorns, topped only by the U.S. at 151. Patent applications from China have risen to 22 percent of the world's total, compared to 23 percent for the U.S. Telecom giant Huawei is the world's top filer for new patents. Alibaba and Tencent rank among the ten most highly valued companies by market capitalization. Chinese research and development spending is quickly catching up to the U.S. level. China already has the world lead on academic scientific papers and the speediest supercomputers. China's entrepreneurs with their 9-9-6 (12 hour days, six days per week) work habits can make their American counterparts look sleepy.

China is no longer copying from the U.S. Now the reverse is true. Facebook has copied WeChat in private group messaging and followed 15-second video app TikTok. Amazon has imitated Alibaba in e-retailing. Lime has followed China's original Mobike and Ofo brands in bike-sharing.

The original China trio has branched out into new technologies that span many economic sectors, from finance to transportation to healthcare. They are far more diversified and acquisitive than the FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) in the U.S. China's BAT have supersized from two decades ago into publicly listed tech giants with hundreds of millions of users. Their founders have made a fortune, ranked high on the Forbes list of top billionaires. They have become heroes in China and inspired the next generation who now can look up to their own national champions.

Tech Titans of China profiles a whole new group of up and comers that are game changers. It examines the tech sectors where China is getting ahead -- artificial intelligence, electric vehicles, fintech, the sharing economy, facial recognition, drones, on-demand delivery, and more.

You can safely bet that China has a master plan to own large chunks of the tech economy within the next decade. It is leapfrogging in all these important technological sectors, and not overlooking such core areas as semiconductors where it is also pushing ahead but still lags. China is also racing to get a lead in fifth-generation mobile communications, and has in recent years far outspent the U.S. on cell sites and wireless infrastructure.

My new book title also underscores the new business models that have originated in China: multi-functional super apps, mobile payments, virtual goods purchases for livestreaming, AI-powered news and video feeds, mini-shops in social media, and gaming baked into e-commerce.

With the U.S. and China facing off as tech rivals, a lot is at stake for America's continued global dominance. Instead of adopting defensive tactics, it would be wise if the U.S. reexamined its own strengths and reinforced them. We'll be exploring these topics in a series of events in New York on September 12, Boston on September 13 and 16, and San Francisco on September 27. If you want to voice your own opinion, join us.


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