Chinese tech in the world
Hi. My name's Isaac Stone Fish. I am the CEO and founder of Strategy Risks firm, which quantifies corporate exposure to China. Very excited to welcome our Panelists. For our conversation. Today, The topic is Chinese tech in the world, and we're gonna be focusing more on. But I would say Beijing's tech in the world or the party's tech in the world. The distinction between
Lot of Chinese entrepreneurs and a lot of brilliant Chinese innovation and some of the ways that Beijing and the CCP is using that Innovations and information for nefarious or at least controlling reasons. Lotus. I'm going to start with you that panel style going to introduce each other themselves when they speak. Notice. You've been a lot of work on the relationship between private
businesses and and the state in terms of information control, So the audience really interested to hear your thoughts on that. Sure the thanks I six. So I'm Lotus Run. I'm, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto Citizen Lab. Um, our research focus
a lot on information control, censorship, privacy and surveillance issues pretending to Chinese social media. So a lot of research recently have been focusing on, um Chinese social media applications such as which had, um uh, including Chinese company own application, like Take to Indonesian and what are the some of the implication for user privacy and content control on these applications? Fantastic, fantastic and so puma over to the right. There's a lot of work on Chinese tech and disinformation. I'd love to hear from you the ways in which Chinese tech platforms but also US platforms. Facebook Twitter, etcetera. Spread disinformation.
Yeah. So hi. This is permission from double Ziggler. So our organization focused like separate issues, and there are like four main points here first is the Who are the state actors that who are the adversaries for initiating all this? I'll stop. And also we look at the chain that was the infrastructure that how they spread all these this information online and offline, So we also investigate a lot of like united from where departments stuff and also we look at the content the narratives whether there are spreading only electrical leading stop where they're spreading conspiracy theory or this negative stuff to trigger our negative emotion. And that's the 13 and also the last stuff like we really focus on is that we are the victims like which group are people are more vulnerable than the other that consume this disinformation from China, and since that this panel focus a lot on peg and not very like tag originated, but data will discuss more about how technology could be exploited.
And to using the big data analysis and how this information could be spread. Uh, the assistance of all these, uh, information collected by China's state actors. Fantastic. Thank you very much. And Alexandria. So you're a lot of really fascinating work on China attack in Africa. I want you to
tell us a little bit about that. Hi, everybody. I'm Alexandra. It's a high Williams and I live in Nairobi, Kenya, where I primarily research China's private tech investment in Africa, So I focus on companies like Huawei and social media companies as well and how they're affecting the tech landscape on the ground in Africa, particularly East Africa. Fantastic. Thank you and Josh, tell us about you. Hi, everyone. My name is Gestion. I am the Deputy China Bureau chief for The Wall
Street Journal, currently Eastern Taipei after I was expelled from Beijing, along with several other American journalists last year. Um before my current job, I was a reporter recovering sort of tech and politics. Including state surveillance in China, Um and Xinjiang in particular, Um, currently, uh, putting, hopefully finishing touches on a book about that same topic that will be out next year.
Plastic. Fantastic. So I know all of you are avid consumers and also producers of news and journalism. And I'd love to hear in this sort of Beijing Tech global space. When you're reading media commentary on this. What do you feel like people Most often misunderstand. Or people most often get wrong. So you're reading the story and you think? Oh, no, that that wasn't right.
Josh, Let's start with you on that one. Um, yeah. I mean, I guess the I think the thing that I see the most often, I think is misleading. Although it's understandable why people would would adopt it is that is this sort of Cold war? Framing. Um you know, almost everything in, you know, having to do with China Tech is now these days sort of slide into this. This idea of a sort of tech Cold War pits the US against China.
And you know, in the sense of start two superpowers facing off for sort of global influence it makes it makes sense. But it's also I think you know it. It's misleading in the sense that the China of the 21st century of now is nothing like the Soviet Union of the 19 eighties, Right? It's um it's deeply integrated with the global economy With the U. S economy. Um it's technologically much more advanced, um, and what it's trying to accomplish. Is very different than what, um, ideologically the Soviet Union was after and so I think that's the and including with technology. And so I think that's the I think, you know.
Again, understandable framing, but I think we are think we often sort of misunderstand. We risk misunderstanding. What's happening in China? When we use that framing? Fantastic, Fantastic Alexandria over to you? Would you say that conventional wisdom is on China attack in Africa And then what are people misunderstanding with that? Um I would say that conventional wisdom often forget the collusion with actors on the ground in Africa. I think when the export of Chinese technology to Africa has written about or explored on the continent, it often takes out These narratives of I don't know political elites in certain countries that directly collude with, um, forces in China to import Chinese technology, and you know the decisions and the trade offs that leaders in African make to access technology that does advanced technological development forward.
In their countries. That's fascinating. Is there any particular examples that you feel like really elucidate that Um, well, I mean, one example that I'm going to use this hallway. Hallway is a really The Huawei conversation in Africa. I feel like it's very nuanced
because Holly has pursued a number of projects on the African continent, So I'm going to use East Africa. For example, When we think of Holloway, we often think of Uganda, where they rolled out the Safe Cities project which enabled Museveni to, uh, kind of suppressed the opposition. The last election. But Holly also was responsible for the undersea cable that's outside of the port of Mombasa in Kenya and Talking to a lot of people who are involved in technology here. They'll
say that that undersea cable definitely changed the game for technology and is part of what made Kenya attack hug today and then you know, Harley also does a lot of corporate social responsibility projects. I talked to a U. N representative a few days ago who said that he had worked with Huawei to roll out technology, um, in the border near Somalia to help reduce maternal deaths.
So I think that the discussion around Chinese tech in Africa is very nuanced, and some of the things that are happening are bad. Definitely bad. But then there are these other things that are beneficial to people on the ground. And I think that Providing a better narrative around that involves understanding the actual effects that it has to people and companies and the development of the African Tech sector. Thank you Notice what about to you, Uh, conventional wisdom in your sector and what's actually going on? Thanks. I said. I said, I think that's a great question. So again, our team focus a lot on information control censorship on Chinese social media. I would think the Biggers sort of myths about censorship
in China on Chinese social media, is that The system is often portrayed as a top down monolithic system where the party or the state has full control. Over what social media Company sensor. Of course, Um, if you are Internet platform operating in China You're actually required to you Invest Tech, um and personnel into making sure that your content on the platform stay within the line. However, the line is usually not clearly draw. Um There is the responsibility of controlling content. Censoring content
s actually downloaded to private company. So often, time is up to the private company to decide. You know what specific he were to censor what specific content to censor. So I would say that when it comes to let's say information control or even The transmission of user data often time we tend to think of Chinese stay as the one controlling factor overall private companies, But in reality, the role of private actor and private company is, um, also very interesting to watch an aisle for, um and often time we saw that content control even have become like an industry in China, For example, Alibaba has a Ah legal platform and some other country Sorry. Some other companies even offer Services to help a smaller platform to make sure the content stay within the lines. So I would say that, um, one of the myth as you know, um what are the involvement of the states in China's information control apparatus? Um, and actually the importance you know the private companies role in facilitating system.
Oh, well, that's that's fascinating and us really grim. Thanks, ladies. Sad, Puma. What about you? What are people thinking about disinformation and what are they missing? Yeah, I didn't agree about law. That's just say this either, like
top down will buy them up. So I mean to understand Chinese influence operation is kind of crucial to not categorize all these attacks in very traditional way. So I mean, there's a group of people saying that Hey, this is the state actor. They're very centralized. But also there are another group of people saying that Hey, the oldest information operations are kind of scattered and they're ineffective. I think both of you are wrong. So I mean Chinese influence operation of both centralized and decentralized and to explain this I mean this. The command of the CCP might be
very centralized. But operators have their own capacity to initiate different kinds of the text, and these attacks are open, decentralizing the operator, seldom collaborating with each other. So operators try to find any likenesses that they can fit into. So once they can find the topic that suits the CCS propaganda purpose, and they track hard to apply for government fundings and I mean, the car option will be in both for sure. And then initiate this kind of I'll attack and revise their strategy along the way when the attack exploited So I mean, when we talk about technology, we often say that Hey, the social media has been weaponized algorithm has been weaponized. But I mean in the Chinese context, it's kind of China is really good and not just weaponizing social media or technology. They are very good at weaponizing their citizens or weaponizing
Chinese diaspora and use it as a weapon to initiate different kinds of On this information operation, So I mean, I mean, that's the very general misunderstanding on this kind of topic. I think Plastic. So Taiwan is in many ways the testing ground for influence operations and perhaps the country that the United Front work Department Party organization that Strengthens China's friends and weakens its enemies. The place that they're the most active in and I'd love to hear, promote what you think the United States can learn about. Chinese influence operations in Taiwan and what lessons they can take to better prepare their own citizens to resist those Yeah. So I mean, uh, so in terms of technology, when we talk about all this surveillance stuff is not really popular right now. Here
in Taiwan. I think they could try to diminish diminish this the value of democracy by investing in others, foreign companies or even enter countries with his own combination to do so. But it's not. It's not a case in 0.1. So what other countries could learn from Taiwan? I think there are like two stuff. So first is that the how China, Hackers tried to
hack hack into our systems or how their companies still and collect information in Taiwan, So there is a quick example there's a a company for the railway technology in Beijing. So they tried to operate all this online psychological tests on Facebook and I G and then collect all these information on this private information from Taiwanese citizens and then try to analyze the profiling, or, uh, Or persona and how we think and categories Taiwanese people into several groups and then establish the content from and actually several contents on websites to spread political disinformation against that different kinds of people. I think that's very successful because they're utilizing all these spectator analysis and trying to find like which group of people woman or with any other So who will consume all these Chinese kind of this information? But I think, um what is more important here is that previously I think in 2000 and 18 in 2019. China is really good at beginning analysis established all these fan pages. I do. Uh huh. Try to have a lot of instagram followers to spread this information,
But right now they're going through another strategy. I call it investment strategy. Which means that try to invest are they like entertainment Enterprise, war the PR firms and trying to have them to spread this information locally there in that country as matters here in Taiwan, So, for example, there are They will try to bribe the livestream owners or influencers or even YouTubers to have been spread all this pro China messages, So it's not about like using technology is more about approaching people making friends and paying their money. And people may think that
you could be the conspiracy theory because it's very hard to prove that all these influencers have official connections with all these Chinese actors. But however, sometimes it, um they don't need so So a best example here is that when you look at 2019, there's the election there into 2020 January. So in 2019, When you look at the top 10 Youtubers, who received donation online here in Taiwan, seven of them spread pro China messages and sometimes because they don't Really. They do not have any official relationship with China. But people will know that if you spread pro China messages, you're automatically make some money through the donation system from YouTube, or you can provide the you can provide a cure all code for them and they could donate then from which had to pay or Ali pay. You can make money, and that's how they can establish that this thing for information market just like that. And when you trace all this disinformation, you will find some local influencers. This local citizens spread this information, So I think
so. I think that's kind of crucial right now. I I think you bring up a lot of really excellent points. You know the the even though we're living in a very tech connected world.
A lot of this is just human to human and bribery and corruption or a lining of influences. And because we think about this issue in the United States, Tic Tac is a great example of a company that we're still struggling with how to figure out how to situated and Josh. I'd love to hear your analysis. How should people in the United States both from the market's perspective, but also from a national security perspective? How do you think they should think about Tiktok? Oh, man, am I mean, ticktock is a detox? A really interesting story, right? I mean, I think that they, um I mean, it's so politicized because of the previous U. S Administration, um, that it's you know, it's it's All the rhetoric around Tiktok around the parent company by dance during the Trump administration was so heated and all of its own sort of sorts of disinformation that's really hard hard to pick apart. Um You know, I think I can't remember. Actually, Lotus was you guys who did this work?
I mean, I think was Citizen lab. Who did. Who did? Who did A, um An analysis of tick tocks source code right and found it was. It wasn't collecting any more data than you know. Personal data on Facebook
or or Twitter, any other Social media app. Right, So there's nothing at least in the code. Initially, the you look at that that makes it seem any more sinister or dangerous going. Of course it's It's a Chinese company, right And it's you know, it's ultimately headquarters are in Beijing and Um, you know, there's a lot of debate about the extent to which Chinese Internet companies resist demands from Beijing Ultimately, of course, Beijing can, um, can turn the screws on Internet companies what it wants to, and we've been we've been seeing that happened with with Alibaba. With and financial, uh, a little bit with 10 Cent recently. So, um,
you know, it's It's a fascinating question. I mean, I think There is, you know. Should you delete tiktok? I don't know. It's other things, too. Personal choice. Um, I mean, but you should. You should generally be wary
of any company that's collecting your personal data. Right? Um And, you know, I guess think a little bit about the fact this is a Chinese company. But I did I I don't know I haven't. We have really satisfying answer
there. But maybe low descends more to say on that. It's a tough one. That's a tough one. Yeah. What do you think? Lettuce? Um, thanks, Josh. Yes. So my pain my call it pillion lean. He actually did a
comprehensive technical analysis of, um textile and billion So Dorian is just the Chinese version of, um Sector that operates only in mainland mainland China. I think so, what he found is pretty interesting in the sense that, um, exactly like you said in the previous administration does a lot of framing using national security framing. To sort of describe Chinese social media applications such as we chat and tiktok as a national security, fracked. Um, I think that has come with several implication. Well, first of all, our technical analysis didn't find that Tiktok collects any more data, um than other social media company does. So assume whatever Facebook likes you take to help us Also, when it comes to like, exactly like you said, should ideally take care of my phone.
I think it's entirely up to your personal choice. If privacy is your concern that maybe also think about what other social Media apps collect your phone as well. Um Assad. We did found on the Italian version. Things a little bit different.
Um, There are different features on this Chinese version of Textile. Um, that cater specifically to the mainland Chinese market, For example, we did find you know, it collects more information. We defined that certain terms are restricted. Um So I think that distinction really is also I think we need to going back to collecting information or censorship, right. The role of private company is one of the key factory understanding how and why, and whether company does certain thing.
For Biden's, which is take those parent company for dumb. Making profit is probably the primary concerned so with that cater a lot of the resources to answer to a specific government. I don't know, but I just know that when it comes to issues like that, oftentimes we also look at you, You know the nature of private companies.
Is that there to make money? They stay there to answer to, you know users needs or is it there to retain more user? I think another interesting example is again so a lot of my research. Focus on we chat. Um It's owned by Chinese company and we do find that we chat sensor a lot of information, um, in mainland China, but interestingly we should has expanded oversee. What we found is that we should implement censorship only on Accounts that registered to a mainland Chinese phone number for its international user, meaning that if you initially register reach account with an international phone number, you're not subject to censorship of Chinese political sensitivity. So I think when it comes to issue slide out, we need to think about You know, what are the nature of private companies? Are they here to make money? Um, so I think again. I don't have a specific answer to that. Um, we can argue that you know again. This is saying that the data is the new oil, right? So if you have a lot of your your citizens data At the behalf of a private company, a foreign company could that be considered potentially national security different? Maybe, but also, I think we need to look into more technical evidence and more sort of brought real understanding of what a friend is and how you know what is the implication for average users in any nation's Because the great points and I think it boils down to the issue of if China is a national figure security 30 the United States, then tick tock is as well because it's a Chinese company because the party has at least defacto control over a lot of what picked up does. And
then if China is not a national security threat, then tick tock is very akin to Facebook in the weaponizing, or they're not weaponizing of the information that tick tock and Facebook collapse. So Alexandria on this issue of sort of trust and national security threat perceptions, and I know I ask you a lot of generalized questions because I know there's a wide variety of views in Africa and in different African nations about this, but Broadly speaking, Where do you think the direction is when it comes to the perception of trust both of China as a trading partner, but also Chinese tack for African consumers, an African governments? That's an interesting question. Um, so in terms of China as a trading partner, it really Depends on who you ask, and for a lot of people that I've talked to, um particularly people who work in industry like developers or investors. I do think that they see China's investment in Africa
as a threat because it's directly competing with their financial interests. Um, if you ask people on the ground, like, for example, in Kenya right now in Nairobi, Um there is a huge bridge highway being built by a Chinese state owned enterprise right now, And if you ask people about it, they'll say, you know, They're moving too slowly. They're charging our government They're built. They're building all these white elephant projects so that
perception can be quite negative. But then when you look at the tech landscape Think people realize that there was sort of a trade off Most people in On the African continent, least people that I've talked to don't even realize that tick tocks Chinese company and Also, the technical landscape of Chinese companies is very different here. So other than Tiktok, we also have biscuit. We have boom play, which is a music app. So there are tons of apps here that are in
some way connected to China. But people don't realize it and I think two people, it's not that important because there's a trade off right? So here's an example. A friend of mine has a technique phone. A girlfriend of mine has a techno phone and she was talking about how her WhatsApp was messing up. She's on my what's ups messing up? It's acting funny. She was like, Well, you know, it's a techno phone and technology Chinese company like maybe it's because, you know, I said something about the Chinese government and she kind of giggled about it. It was like, No, I'm kidding. Like I'll keep this phone because the
pictures are great. So this is trade off that people realize here between up taking tech that could potentially take their data or misuse their data and having access to really good technology, And I think that that's something that people should realize when discussing the uptake and the expert of Chinese taken to Africa. It's a region that's been historically ignored by tech companies. Where tech companies haven't taken the time to do market research and understand what people need here. And when you have these companies that are coming in offering affordable technology, um, offering discounts on data So, for example, boom play, which is a music app here you can use without using actual data on your phone, which is extremely expensive here in Kenya.
People are willing to make that tradeoff and until there are other options available, people will continue to utilize whatever is available and whatever is the most affordable Yeah, It's like to talk about Xinjiang a bit. And Josh I'd love to hear from you how Chinese tech innovation can lead to For lack of a better term, innovative oppression in Xinjiang, the region in northwest China, where there upwards of a million Muslims and other minorities in concentration camps. Right? Um, yeah. I mean, I mean, uh, that the situation in Xinjiang is hopefully pretty well known by now so I want the labour won't go so Repeat everything. It's pretty bad situation in technology is obviously a key piece of it. Um and it really is. I mean, it's it is dystopian. It's not, You know, it's I remember when I first went there in late 2017.
My first trip my Twitter, my reporting partner and I drove in because we're afraid of going to the airport that we picked up there and so, but we drove in and immediately crossing the border into Xinjiang from from guns so you can just immediately feel Like you were in a different place. Right? It was. It was like a counterinsurgency operation, but it was, but it was like all Tech based, um and it and it really It's quite amazing, and it's it's it's. It's just suffocating. Um, you know, it's It's sort of cameras everywhere. Checkpoints everywhere. You have to scan your face to
go into like a bazaar to like a hotel or a bank. We actually pulled over at one point because we were driving a A rental car with license plates from outside of Xinjiang, and they had a license plate reader that flagged our car and tops and came in and like And like blocked our path, way back and forth on in front of my car and my car and made us get out and explain what we were doing. So I mean, it's um The party in Sin Jeong is really, um it would they would syndrome shows is what can happen when, uh States use technology would no limits, uh, to to exert control on the population and to really engineered. I mean, it's it's it's not. It's not just control, but it's act actively trying to shape A population's behavior and identity. Um and it's using data to sort
of try to predict who the troublemakers are going to be right. Um and and so it is. It's absolute maximum. End of oppression for technology. Uh, so and I think in that sense it's obviously valuable to look at. Even if you don't have a particular interest in China. Um because I make it really shows what this technology can do.
And then on the flip side, you know, just this exact same technology is being used in places like Hangzhou. Um, for the exact opposite in the exact opposite way, Right. Hangzhou is this sort of digital paradise, right? It's this beauty. You know, it's where Alibaba's is located. That's where, um, Two of the biggest surveillance camera companies in the world are located, but Everything in Hangzhou run smoothly because there's cameras everywhere, feeding data into into the sort of central smart city they called the city brain, you know, and optimizes traffic. You know, it's like it optimizes everything in the city based on data it's collecting.
And so if you you know if you're wealthy You know, Han Chinese person living in Hangzhou. Surveillance is really great for you. So I think to me the really interesting thing in China is that is that contrast Anything. It's dark, dark and fascinating, Puma. What's the debate in Taiwan about Xinjiang? And where do we see Xinjiang disinformation spreading in Taiwan? Yeah. I mean, uh, I mean, it's very It's very interesting case here because I know someone who, Mr in who got a PhD met and who work in China. Uh, actually developed a system that how to monitor the people. How? How they walk in Xinjiang because they can, uh, indicate
like who you are like by only for targeting, like using the camera and see how you walk, and you will know who it is and whether they are like walking too quickly and whether they want to initiate attack or something like that. So I mean others. Civilians. Technology has been spread over and people are talking about it. And people are aware of it. And especially f d. I mean Hong Kong protest issue. Uh, let's see on me almost two years ago,
people here in Taiwan very much aware of this kind of surveillance technology. However, what people are not aware of right now, here in Taiwan is how they still users information overseas. You seem like various application because you're just mentioning that key target go in right, so the Syria has become very complicated here, so just very quickly. Simple lots of like media services providers in Taiwan is very similar to Netflix. Are actually operated by what invested in by China. This company
can ask you their legal response responsibility by disguising their efforts within companies media service platforms and try to collect user's information every day. So the imprint our user data within the war and combined the data with other information that hacker gather, such as the I D number the address. And what is even worse Is that think about it When all this service like Netflix. I'm not talking about next by the service that are similar to Netflix. If they came to combined with the cable service in your own country, and which is happening right now, here in Taiwan, which means they can even get the more information include morning project could be gathering the near future. And, uh, in terms
of the question you just about how the Xinjiang the information is. It's very political, because people only talking pocket talk about singer because that they sense that Chinese China is a threat right now. And but they are not sensing that kind of issue and maybe this kind of discussion. We're kind of diminished. Yeah, it's sad. I think that's in some ways the case the United States
to where people who talk about Xinjiang sometimes just do it because it's about China as a threat, as opposed to about horrific human rights violation and genocide that's happening there. So we're opening it up to questions from the audience and Alexandria. There's a question from new about how Chinese tech firms and the belt and road initiative navigate diverse religious groups across Africa. Diverse religious dynamics Cross Africa. That's not really
an issue that comes up. Let me think about it. I mean, from my experience, it's not, um An issue that the companies themselves involved themselves in, um From my experience and research with, uh, Chinese companies in Africa. Even like Chinese media enterprises in Africa, they really do try to stay away from issues related to religion or domestic politics or domestic policy. Their idea is kind of like we're getting in. We're doing a job. We're doing a service and we're getting out. And
if let's say the powers that be your political elites or the government asked us to do something on our behalf as long as they're in power. We will assistant in some way so In my experience. I do think that a lot of these companies kind of take note and, um Take a note from Political leaders themselves. I haven't seen very many cases where it's been an issue. Like even for example, with Tiktok. Um A lot of one of the most popular user bases on Tiktok in Africa is Somali people who tend to be a Muslim and They enjoy. It doesn't happen. They don't see they don't necessarily see the conflict between it being a Chinese company from China and things that are going on in Sinjar as well. Um, so yeah, I don't
think that's not something that I've seen yet, but it's something interesting to explore for sure. Thing. So China is an intensely political place and notice or Josh Love to hear from you on how private companies private tech companies like Alibaba like 10 Cent. How do they navigate the political currents in China? We've seen it quite publicly for Alibaba and somewhat less publicly for 10 Cent, but I'd love to know what they're doing to manage that relationship.
What does she want to take that one? That's a self taught question. Yeah, I got tried. Okay, I can try again. I mean, Josh probably know a lot more than meat, because again, I focus quite specifically on the information control sort of user privacy surveillance side of things What we've able to prove and seen on our perspective, a sort of The intermingling of states and perfect actors in this apparatus, right, So we're seeing as a lot of time companies are trying to do What they need to survive. Because in order to operate in China, you have to comply with local laws and regulations to make sure that content on the platform stay within the invisible party line, right.
We've seen not only Chinese companies, um doing information control, but also The Chinese version of international apps like Skype in China. I think it is called Tom Sky unless it used to, um they also to be able to operate in China. They started censoring, you know, keywords of Chinese political sensitivity. So for private companies, regardless of your origin is very likely that you have Use some sort of what with this system to device to to invest technology in prison personnel to make sure that the content stay within the line. Um and often again because This sort of, um, government directed are not necessarily handed down to each and every single company with us very specific instruction. A lot of five companies are just left to themselves. The guest me
What content or what? You know what are the next up for them? So we see, for example, during the Covid 19 pandemic discussion. We saw that which had begin sort of Censoring very broadly keywords. On this platform, we found examples of keywords to actually reference state media reports so something that's already confirmed by social Story by Chinese state media. For example, something is published on Xinhua News Agency and we found keywords extracted from those reports are being censored on region, So I think for a private company, of course, they are under the pressure, political pressure. To make sure you know, content. It doesn't seem as problematic. Go home for on the other hand, long time they also doing it sort of proactively to avoid, you know, government, um, finds work at the men sort of This coating from the government if you will, so I think the there's a definitely a very complicated and nuanced, intermingling relationship between state and private actors.
Coming up laws is Josh. Go ahead. You know which one of that? I mean, I think I think Lotus made some really great points about private companies. I mean, I think it really is. I think they Mean people forget that they are motivated by profit, right? Firstly, these are companies right? Um, hallway actually falls into the same category. Um, And so they argue, But they're Chinese companies, and they have to, you know, part of making profit is survival. And is sort of keeping yourself on the right side of the of the party.
Um, and you know what you see now is really fascinating because I'm actually just today. One of my colleagues broke the news that that and financial, which is the Payments ability of of Alibaba. Um, His is in talks with state owned companies to create a new credit ratings company, which will use ants data, and that's you know, Like every other Internet company, the most valuable thing Antone's as its data, and this is the one. This is the thing that They've been fighting with the government about the government wants access to ants data. They do 17. He was like $17 trillion worth of
transactions in a year, right, which is a huge amount of insight into what's happening in China, and the government wants it. And you know, Of course, Alibaba doesn't want to give it up because that's where I had doesn't want to give it up, because that's their competitive advantage. But now they are. They're giving it up. They're gonna or they are talking with state film companies about about basically handing this over for a credit ratings. Company, which is pretty fascinating. So I mean, I think you know the Chinese tech companies now are mean they're still around. Um, but their business models are being or up in the air in a really serious way. And what's real? What's also fascinating. As you've
seen all of these founders of tech companies stepped down or kind of step out of the limelight. So Jack Ma is basically not running his company anymore. Founder of Bite Dance, You know he's doing education philanthropy. Now, um Tony mas like no one's seen pony, Ma, the founder of Tencent, in like months. I mean, I guess, Yeah, I just have been a brief appearance
recently. But also all these entrepreneurs all these sort of innovators in China. People who really drove Chinese tech industry are stepping away, which I think is gonna be really interesting for the future of Chinese Tech. When I When I close my eyes, I can see what Jack Ma looks like. And I can picture him, you know, dressed as a glam rocker on stage, but I mean, I don't remember what pony ma looks like, and he has done For the longest time, a very good job of being very, very low key, and I think I mean, so if if Jack Ma's relinquishing his position is the most popular man in China. Outside of Xi Jinping. I mean, who is next going to wear that dangerous
crowd? Who do you think? I mean? There's got to be. I mean, there's there's always got to be so you know, there's gotta be someone First among equals, and I think that's and I guess they're all fighting to not be that person. Yeah, I think I mean, I think it's a really interesting moment. I mean, these were the people who are their heroes, right? You know, Jack Ma is like he's a godlike figure in China, right? Which is the problem for him. Partly, I think right and and and Um, Johnny meeting at Beit Dance, so legs, a rock star, right? He's a celebrity and you know, and and both of these guys built really innovative companies, um, and how they but they don't feel or whatever reason they don't feel like they can keep doing that. And so, you
know, what is that going to mean? For the next generation of entrepreneurs in China? What is the message you take? Away if you're if you're a young Chinese engineer with an interesting idea for a company Um, you know, when you see this happening, what do you? Yeah. What is that? What lesson do you take away? Maybe build it. And if you're building a $50 billion business, fantastic And then above that, So you know, having a small medium, even a very large success is good, but going beyond that you're just putting yourself in a dangerous position. But, yeah, Who knows it's difficult. No Jack Ma was also somewhat of a rock star in some countries across Africa, and I think he gave some big speeches and in Kenya as well. So how is the news of Jack Ma's fall being taken in Kenya? Alexandria? I think at the beginning it was. It was actually surprising to me in a number of news outlets actually discussed Jack Ma's disappearance from media, especially because that was on the back of, um The Metra preneurs competition that Jack Ma's pursuit pursuit here and Africa and people discussed it, but people still kind of you, Jack. Ma is a hero here. People definitely are respect him as a
Very important founder of technology and someone who is very important to African Tech here, so it's not like his esteem has declined here since he's disappeared from He's disappeared from from from from media or from the public in China. In fact, people ask me like they're like. So where's Jack? Ma? I remember. That was a joke that people would ask me one point. Where's Jack? Ma? Where do you think Jack by is and I was like, Okay. I mean, I don't have the inside line and we're Jack Ma rose, but people were definitely concerned, but it hasn't. Worn away at his esteem. And I do think that that's a problem if
you know if all of if all of China's tech proceeds in Africa, um are kind of being viewed in the lens of Jack Ma, that Obviously would be a problem for for the state, and they would definitely do that as a threat. Mhm. Notice. What's your sense on how linked Chinese tech companies are to their founders and how that would say, compared, you know Steve Jobs Apple and Zuckerberg and Facebook? Are they equally as linked? Or would you say it's a different system and how those two related I wish I knew. I feel like such an exchange will have much more inside to this, but I feel like one of the things. Um Duh keeps it when
people asked China related question. Is as of China is so unique in China. Chinese companies are so unique that they must have a different operation system or different ways of functioning, But I think a lot of time Chinese companies or U. S company. Private company share a lot more commonality than we expected. Then we actually assume so it wouldn't
be surprised, like it wouldn't be a surprise to me if I say in the startup phrases founders have a lot more control over how they want the app to be how they want to define the system. Um, there's some media reports saying that, um Zhang Xiaolong, I don't actually know what he is. English name is but he is sort of the founding father or, like the developer of which chat, right? He has a lot of, say, um in how we had what we just design should be. What? Because you I should be
so the absolutely a lot of power over the app. But I would think that naturally as the apps get, you know bigger, get more popular. You now have what 1.4 billion users on the application. I think then you have different professional teams are different groups of developer catering the application, so I think it might not be asked like that different, um, for Chinese companies how they operate.
As to you don't know US companies. Maybe Josh and a stranger. Okay, now add on that we got just under two minutes. So just as a final question, I would say in a sentence What should people remember from this panel? Josh will start with you. Oh, man, Um It's complicated. I mean, uh, we'll take a That's a good answer, man. What? We'll take it? Yeah. All right.
Puma. What do you think? I mean, because we mentioned about all these tech owners and talking and me. I'm focused more on this information so people can look at how Joseph tied the owner of Brooklyn that when he was interviewed by CNBC few days ago, he actually support the national security law in Hong Kong and see how he amplifies all these Chinese propaganda and this might be another way. How these tech companies because PC information, more propaganda. I mean, actually from China. I mean, that's perspective. That's a
great point. So the founders and the top executives themselves, not just the platforms. Alexandria. What do you think? I think that the most important thing to remember is that if the goal is to counter China's tech influence in Africa, better alternatives must be offered, and that the most valuable thing that That that is at stake here is African data, which is extremely profitable, and Chinese tech companies realize that and they're capitalizing and what I want to see is more African tech companies hold and maintain African data. That's the most important thing to me. Yeah, thanks. Notice. I would say the role of private actress and private companies as very important to keep an eye out for Fantastic. Fantastic. Thank you. All for your incredible insight
and comments. Thank you, The Atlantic Council for hosting us and thanks to everyone in the audience, we are going to magically end four seconds early.