[Gang Lu: The following notes are actually written by Calvin Chin, a good friend of mine and the founder of Qifang.cn, a P2P student loan network and the first Chinese company won the Technology Pioneer Award from World Economy Forum. The reason I decided to post it here and I also suggest you to read though is that, it is hard to find a China-based startup which has the vision of the global industry and more importantly, understands the true value of web technology which is to bring more value back to society.
I was reading an advertisement on Wired magazine another day, it says: The technology is only truly advanced, if it advances the lives of the people using it. I am not against the so-called Entertainment-centric Internet in China at all, but I do hope there will be more like Qifang coming from China and Asia in the coming years. Content in web2.0 is generated by the users, so web2.0 is to create more value and return it back to the users.]
When Qifang was honored as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer at the end of last year, one of the most exciting aspects was that I would represent our company and receive the award at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Over the last four decades, the WEF meeting has become such an international institution that it is often just referred to simply as Davos. And this year’s participants lived up to the event’s reputation, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was the first prominent speaker, but other highlights included Vladimir Putin, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Taro Aso, Michael Dell, Rupert Murdoch and Ban Ki-moon. My personal expectations were highest to see those involved in microfinance and education (Muhummad Yunus from Grameen Bank, and Craig Barrett of Intel and John Chambers of Cisco who have been leaders in the WEF’s Global Education Initiative) and meeting technology leaders such as the founders of Google, YouTube and Facebook.
Of course bringing together global political and economic leaders, the discussion focused primarily on the global economic crisis. Finance ministers and bankers discussed the regulatory failings, the necessary policy responses and the personal and institutional culpability. As one might expect, the mood in many sessions was somber with many fearing a long and deep economic downturn. Other sessions covered the Middle East conflict that recently flared up in Gaza and the global climate crisis.
All in all, there was a lot to be discouraged and pessimistic about.
But what was striking was how much optimism and hope pervaded the Meeting.
Some of this was certainly based on the hopes placed on the change that new governments will bring, but most of the positive feelings were in the sessions I attended with other entrepreneurs and those working in global development and education. Maybe it is in part because we are used to facing big challenges with limited resources. Maybe it is because we are inherently optimistic. Hearing about successes in Mozambique and progressive initiatives at companies like Cisco and institutions like Yale University is a reminder that there are others like Qifang working hard to make the world a better place.
To me seeing Premier Wen speak was a sign of China’s accepting its responsibility, as one of the world’s largest economies, to help lead the global response to the crisis. This was my second time seeing Premier Wen speak in person. I also saw him last year at the WEF’s “Summer Davos,” which is held in China each year, just as the magnitude of the economic crisis was being realized. In both cases his speeches were an expression of reassurance to the global leaders in attendance that China was responding aggressively and was confident in its own ability to rebound as well as confidence in the possibility of coordinated efforts. In a small sense, Qifang has a similar responsibility to accept. As China’s first WEF Technology Pioneer we are representatives for the many, many innovative companies in China.
And to me, this was the “takeaway” message. There is much to be hopeful about. As many have said, we should not waste this crisis. This is an opportunity to aggressively build a future that is more equitable and more sustainable. It’s a chance for new cooperation to emerge from the clarity that the crisis demands — cooperation between countries, between institutions and between individuals. For the public sector and the private sector, for-profits and non-profits to come together. And it’s time for those of us with capabilities to realize our responsibility in being a part of the solutions to our world’s problems. In the end, we can each of us benefit as we all benefit together.
Fundamentally, that is what Qifang has always been about. “Blooming together” with each of us having a role to play. Being inspired by success stories and not shying away from the responsibilities we share to our communities and each other. Knowing that we can help ourselves as we help others.
I hope that we all meet again in twelve months in Davos and can be proud of the things that we’ve all accomplished and that this crisis would not have been wasted.
[photo from daylife.com]