How China is winning in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Alibaba Campus
Alibaba Campus

Currently, I’m on a 4-week China trip, visiting many cities. In Hangzhou, I met CEIBS peers who work for Alibaba. While the Alibaba campus is quite impressive, I got even more impressed by Alibaba’s leadership culture, which is encouraging its employees to innovate as intrapreneurs.

If you start your own project (a new mobile app, a patent, a scientific paper, etc.), you’re doing it in your own pace, you’re not being micro-managed and you’ll receive a bonus based on success. Intrapreneurship at Alibaba is just one of many examples where we (Europeans) can learn a lot from China!

Yue and me, Hangzhou West Lake

While traveling in China I was reading AI Superpowers: China Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee, a book that is a must-read to get an idea where China’s AI ambitions are heading to. What matters most for AI innovation these days, the author argues, is access to vast quantities of data—where China’s advantage is overwhelming.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
  • Kai-Fu Lee
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 272 pages

A quite entertaining book focusing on the new mindset of China’s young generation is this one: Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World by Zak Dychtwald.

Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World
  • Zak Dychtwald
  • Publisher: ST MARTINS PR
  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 304 pages

[Update 2 May 2019]: Which other cities in China did I visit? Check out my Tableau Public viz:

Live Scorpions and Seahorses wriggling on a Stick

Live Scorpions and Seahorses wriggling on a Stick
Live Scorpions and Seahorses wriggling on a Stick

Wouldn’t you like to try one?

Located right in the center of Beijing‘s business district Donghuamen, the Wangfujing Night Market is known to many as the “Crazy Food Street”. Even though you can have the scorpions fried before you eat them, you also have the option of being brave and eating them alive. Mentally, one of the most difficult things to eat, especially since the scorpions are still alive an moving just before you eat them.

And if you are really feeling adventurous, try delicates like starfish, chicken heart, duck tongue, shrimp eggs, centipede, octopus tentacle and many more. I especially enjoyed silk-worms, very small but thick bugs that looked like they had a shell.

Discovering Beijing: The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City

Imagine we were just electrified in Tokyo, not tired at all hopping back to Beijing where we continued our trip. After passing through the chaos of the airport taxi rank, we decided to take the metro. Finally, after wandering around a few alleyways and asking a few times we ran into an old Chinese man who pointed us in the right direction and we finally checked into the Inner Mongolia Grand Hotel Beijing.

Smog covering Beijing
Smog covering Beijing

The first thing that comes to mind about Beijing is the smog in the air and the smell of exhaust fumes. It was very evident that the air here is not very clean even at night. Last time I experienced such air polution was 2007 in Bangalore, India. You hear a lot about it but you have to breathe it to fully comprehend how thick it actually is.

The Forbidden CityThe Forbidden City was the first site that we visited in Beijing. Off limits for 500 years, the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing was finally opened to the masses in 1949. This is a huge complex and China’s most spectacular architectural structure. The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors in two dynasties, the Ming and the Qing.

The three main halls of the outer court, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony and Hall of Preserved Harmony form a line inside the gate. These halls are all situated on three-tier marble terraces, with ornate marble balustrades. An impressive stone ramp carved with coiled dragons and clouds is located between the steps leading up to each hall. The ramp of Hall of Preserved Harmony is the largest.

The Forbidden City is an amazing walk around that took us one day. We continued with …

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Entering Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan

Multicolored neon light that illuminates a major city center with a vibrant nighttime glow, businessmen cackling, Japanese girls in bright outfits: welcome to Shibuya on a Friday night!

Before going to Japan when I thought of Tokyo I thought of the Shibuya crossing which is pretty famous for being one of the world’s most heavily used pedestrian scramble intersections. I have seen so many photos of this spot and it was one of the places I truly wanted to visit.

We ended up in Shibuya a couple times over our trip but the photo in this post is from the very first visit. While the Shibuya crossing does have “pedestrian crossing lines” which cross in different direction it does seem like people will charge in more or less any direction, as you can see in this video that was taken a few days later.

Electrified in Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

After visiting more than half a dozen Asian countries (including six months in India), I left on my staggering excursion to Japan in June of 2014. I felt the little hairs on my arms standing up as I boarded the Airbus A330-200 at Frankfurt Airport, waves of excitement running up and down my spine, knowing I would end up on the other side of the world, in Tokyo.

After the seventeen-hour journey (via Beijing), and a loud bang, I awoke to a hazy, electric glow, which was almost too much to bear in my awfully jet lagged state. Tokyo glows.

Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay, Japan
Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay, Japan

Tokyo is perhaps the most gorgeous ugly city in the world. It’s a super-dense riot of mismatched buildings, overhead wiring and one of the planet’s best mass transit systems. In other words: Blade Runner city.

It’s like being surrounded by embers from a fire on speed at nighttime. There’s lights, such a large number of lights, all different colored sparkling lights reflecting all around, and people, so many people, and sounds, sounds that don’t stop.

After deciding I needed out after some days in Tokyo, I headed to Hakone for a respite from the Shibuya crossing