Chinese Entrepreneurs Speak at World Economic Forum in Davos

Alibaba Chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland
Alibaba Chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland (Source: Alizila)

The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) is being held again in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. This year’s theme is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” Many representative Chinese entrepreneurs attended the forum including Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and CEO, Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of Bytedance, Kaifu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures and Daniel Zhang, chairman and CEO of Alibaba.

In this era of platform-based economies, business success and growth are sustainable only when all stakeholders contribute and benefit together, Zhang said Wednesday.

Speaking onstage with Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, Zhang emphasized how vital it is for deeply intertwined participants in a platform economy to develop a common vision through mutual understanding and collaboration.

“With the recent development of technologies, there will be new platforms arising here and there. But for the whole society, in a business partnership, we need to find a way to understand each other, so everyone could be a platform and everyone is a stakeholder to each other…The key is, ‘Do we share a vision?’ That’s the core of collaboration and the core of stakeholder capitalism. If we share the same vision, share the same goal, then we can find the right way to get there,” said Zhang.

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Zhang emphasized there’s no longer any question about whether a platform economy needs to be inclusive. Instead, good leaders are focused on how to ensure everyone in broader society can reap the benefits of new
technologies and share in economic and business growth. “This needs not only the vision of a leader, but also the leader’s guidance in terms of how, and to create a mechanism that will make all the people not only reach a consensus, but also allow them to take real actions,” Zhang said.

Ren, the CEO of Huawei, said Wednesday, “Technology breakthroughs have led to the accumulation of energy for society, like a technological big bang. The big bang has brought panic to the public, but I think the big bang is a good thing. We don’t need to panic about artificial intelligence today.”

Ren also said that if the United States continues to crack down on Huawei this year, the company will be more confident about how deal with it due to its experience and lessons learned during the past year.

Lee, chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, pointed out that in the past two years, AI startups have been overvalued, and an irrational money-burning model is difficult to sustain. “The market valuations of some of these companies are ridiculous, so these companies will definitely run into problems,” he said.

Lee pointed out that with the mobile Internet dividend period coming to an end, the number of future platform-level mobile Internet super unicorns will greatly diminish. He said that back-end innovation can promote industrial consolidation in China. If front-end innovation disrupts areas such as social networks, media, payment, and O2O, back-end innovation will create value in relatively traditional industries, such as logistics, enterprise services, factory supply chains, retail, education and medical care. Lee said back-end innovation will bring particularly great value in the next 5-10 years, and it will also generate unicorns.