Emerge by TechNode

What is EMERGE?


A deep dive into emerging China tech trends

Emerge was born when we saw that there is an enormous information gap about emergent technology trends in China. We want to empower our community of entrepreneurs and professionals by helping them understand China through expert analysis and insight. Our online content is already recognized as the best out there. Now it’s time to bring that offline.

Why now?

We want to empower our community of entrepreneurs and professionals by helping them understand China through expert analysis and insight. Our online content is already recognized by many as the best out there, hence it’s about time we bring it on with a deep dive, meaningful, content-focused tech live conference, and not just any China tech 101 event that we're all too busy to waste time attending.

 

Here’s what we’re focused on in 2019:

  • Artificial intelligence: Can ethical AI actually exist in China?
  • Blockchain: Without crypto, who’s making the money?
  • How digital marketing is changing and how brands are trying to keep up
  • How will China’s slowing economy affect the tech industry?
  • China tech landscape’s shift from consumer-focused to enterprise-focused
  • Corporate innovation: How can large companies take advantage of China speed?
  • Telling China stories to Southeast Asia and India

 

Register to the event now to get your early bird tickets by May 5. Become a member to obtain the member price ticket to Emerge.


EMERGE: Does Chinese tech have a future?

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_5Xm94f9cg

If you can’t see the YouTube player above, try watching here instead.

Tech changes fast, and nowhere faster than China. If you’re planning for next year, you’re already behind.

Last year’s new strategies are old already, and across the industry established business models are running out of steam. We’ve seen big changes afoot in the last few months of TechNode coverage: China is no longer a bottomless well of new users and cheap coders. The trade war is further splitting the Chinese and US ecosystems—and threatens to cut Chinese companies off from core US technology like CPUs and the Android operating system. No one is sure how to reach the latest generation of young people. Even China’s decades-long economic boom is flagging. But new waves of opportunity are starting to crest, as China’s startups and tech giants explore new technologies and new markets.

In the TechNode Squared community, members are talking about these issues. One member sees trouble:

I think this is some big news. Essentially it will either delay Huawei's access to US technology or completely cut it. Some similarities to ZTE last year. Although Huawei is somewhat more independent from US tech than ZTE, it still relies on it for key parts of its business. FPGAs from Intel or Xilinx, EDA tools, emulators, etc. from Synopsys and Cadence. Even CPUs from Intel.

Another member sees potential if the US takes its own pieces off the Chinese chessboard:

The bigger impact here, in my opinion, is enterprise software/solutions. So China is now entering this wave of “2B” (ie, to business) investments, which is just a buzzword for developing its enterprise software sector. The market is huge and largely untapped…

Alibaba and Tencent's involvement in building enterprise ecosystems, underpinned by their cloud infrastructure as the base for customer acquisition, thus brings 1) dollops of corporate venture capital which then leads to a rapid build-up; and 2) much better margins cos of cross selling software to the large installed user base. Many of these listed US SaaS firms are unprofitable today because they are spending huge amounts on sales & marketing for customer acquisition and managing churn; you can quite easily see how this becomes much more manageable being part of the Alibaba/Tencent ecosystems (think about the rise of Pinduoduo or JD's hypergrowth after Tencent's investment). Amazon understands this and that's why they offered a MongoDB clone called Amazon DocumentDB recently.

As such, I think “2B” becomes a lot more interesting, catalyzed by this move on Huawei.

TechNode can’t actually see around corners, but this Thursday in Shanghai we’re offering the next best thing: Emerge, a one-day conference dedicated to trends, issues and ideas that will shape the next decade of tech in China. There’s still time to buy tickets—or watch this space for coverage of key themes by TechNode’s crack team of correspondents.

In emerging technology, Blockchain Dreams: Regulations and Rewards will cover the opportunities as companies and government race to master blockchain—even as cryptocurrency remains mostly out of bounds. Can Ethical AI Exist in China? Will discuss the potential and peril of the rush to put the machines in charge.

On markets, the 2B Shift will explore the potential of enterprise markets to replace flagging consumer growth, while Digital Marketing: Finding China’s Youth will figure out how to stay relevant with the kids.

On the big picture, Corporate Innovation: Harnessing China Speed will discuss best practices for merging startup energy with corporate strategy, and a special live recording of the China Tech Investor Podcast with New York Times Asia tech correspondent Paul Mozur will discuss the divergence of the Chinese and US tech ecosystems.

We hope to see you there at Emerge —but if you don’t, we’ll keep you in the loop.


5.23 Emerge Shanghai | Panel: Blockchain dreams: Regulations and Rewards

 

In September 2017, the Chinese government banned all cryptocurrency exchanges, killing most and forcing the biggest to go offshore. Since then, ICOs and cryptocurrencies have been a no-go for China’s blockchain industry, at least within the country. That doesn’t mean, however, that blockchain has disappeared.

The Chinese government has shown a keen interest in harnessing technology to solve problems as diverse as corruption, payments, and medical care. Local governments in Guangxi, Hangzhou, and even China’s “second capital” Xiong’ an are all looking at applications of blockchain to better manage their cities as well as bring greater transparency to their economy and government.

Blockchain Dreams: Regulations and Rewards, a panel discussion featured during TechNode’s Emerge conference, looks at the current state of the blockchain industry in China, including regulations and opportunities by answering these key questions:

  • How do international developments affect the Chinese blockchain industry?
  • What is China’s vision for blockchain?
  • Are there opportunities for smaller blockchain companies outside of government contracts?

Panelists will include representatives from Consensys, Ant Financial, Points. The conversation will be a deep dive into the forces and trends shaping blockchain in China. This is a must-attend for anyone seeking insight into the future of blockchain in the Middle Kingdom.

At Emerge, we will dive into emerging China tech trends such as AI, corporate innovation, blockchain, digital marketing, shift to enterprise, the slowing economy, and the expansion to Southeast Asia. We will be previewing other topics in the upcoming weeks so stay tuned.

Click the links below for the previous preview of Emerge: AI panel: Can China achieve ethical AI?Digital marketing panel: Finding China's Youth

Live recording of China Tech Investor podcast | The Slowing Economy: US vs China tech ecosystems


Briefing: China holds the highest number of blockchain patents

Data: China has the most blockchain patents, despite banning cryptocurrency - The Next Web

What happened: The Next Web analyzed data made available by the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and found that, to date, the majority of patents related to blockchain technologies were approved in China, followed closely by the US. However, Chinese entities were not among the top four institutions holding patents; Alibaba ranked fifth. Americans dominate the top 15 companies whose applications were granted. The total number of approved patents skyrocketed in 2017, when 917 blockchain-related patents were granted. In 2018, during the bitcoin crash, the number of patents continued to increase. It is unclear how many of the patents are related to virtual currency or other blockchain applications.

Why it's important: Blockchain is increasingly relevant, especially for banks. Global spending on blockchain technologies is expected to reach $12.4 billion by 2022, most of which will be used for finance, particularly cross-border ($453 million) and trade ($285 million) payments, according to US market intelligence firm International Data Corporation. As with patents, the US will spend the most ($1.1 billion), followed by Western Europe ($674 million) and China ($319 million). Patents are important for protecting intellectual property in this burgeoning sector, especially for ambitious companies participating in a global economy. China banned cryptocurrency exhanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs) in 2017. However, following a 2014 Supreme Court decision, it is US law that poses the strictest scrutiny to patent requests which apply an abstract idea via computing, such as the distributed ledger.

 


Briefing: 'Blockchain industrial village' proof of Wenzhou's crypto enthusiasm

China's Wenzhou Residents Bolster the Idea of a 'Blockchain Village' - Bitcoin.com

What happened: Chinese social media caught a glimpse of a new physical use for bitcoin when images surfaced on microblogging platform Weibo showing cryptocurrency-themed (and funded) guardrails in Yuedong, a village in the eastern province of Zhejiang near Wenzhou. According to residents, the village owes its progressive attitude toward blockchain technologies to Btcchina cryptocurrency exchange founder Yang Linke, who was born there. A blockchain theme park is also being built in Yuedong to capitalize on the rising number of tourists seeking to witness what appears to be a crypto first.

Why it’s important: Despite far-reaching bans and regulations imposed on cryptocurrency by the central government, local support for the embattled tech seems to persist. One local resident reported that Wenzhou government officials have reacted positively to the cryptocurrency-themed carvings. Additionally, some villagers have taken up developing decentralized apps, or dapps, and Wenzhou even has its own EOS node. These grassroots developments offer some proof that China's influence on the future of blockchain is alive and well.


Betting on blockchain to simplify carbon trading

Polluted air in Beijing. (Image credit: Da Yang)

Climate change has become one of the most urgent issues facing the entire planet. It has become increasingly clear to the majority of nations that further delaying action to mitigate the rise of global temperatures will cause irreversible impacts to ecosystems and populations. Carbon trading is one of the most efficient ways for nations to reduce their levels of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA).

However, the global carbon market is very fragmented. In the absence of a unified platform to purchase and sell carbon credits, regional markets have adopted different standards and policies. Trading costs are high because buyers and sellers rely on intermediaries to handle the often complex and cumbersome process.

Last year, a Beijing-based team of environmental advocates founded Synergy Blockchain Technology with the goal of stimulating China’s carbon economy through blockchain-based trading. Their platform is designed to lower the cost of carbon trading and reduce friction for buyers and sellers.

“The government is ambitious in terms of controlling overall carbon emissions,” said Neo Lin, Synergy co-founder and a United Nations-certified expert in the field. “In terms of taking specific steps to stimulate the carbon trading market, the government is rather conservative.”

Lin believes market-based initiatives have an important role to play. Synergy's carbon credit trading platform VER, currently in its testing phase, is set to launch in March. The company also launched its own carbon credit-backed cryptocurrency ECO2, which is already trading on two cryptocurrency exchanges, to enable companies and individuals interested in purchasing and trading carbon credits to engage with more efficiency and transparency.

In layman’s terms, Synergy’s carbon trading platform will be similar to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao in that it matches consumers to sellers, said Rich Huang, the company’s other co-founder. Meanwhile, the ECO2 cryptocurrency will serve as a trading tool for payments and cross-border transactions, akin to Alibaba’s Alipay.

Synergy is engaged in advocacy work in China and other parts of Asia. It is a member of the Climate Chain Coalition (CCC), an initiative launched by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to advance blockchain applications in mitigating climate change.

China in the spotlight

Carbon trading can be divided into two types: the compliance market (aka cap-and-trade), where entities can purchase carbon credits in order to meet regulatory targets; and the voluntary market, where companies and individuals voluntarily decide to purchase carbon credits to “neutralize” or offset their emissions. In China, the world’s largest emitter and exporter of carbon, both the compliance and the voluntary markets are still in their infancy.

Despite the fact that its emission reduction efforts have been in the spotlight in the past few years, China still yet to establish a fully functional nationwide carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS), yet another name for cap-and-trade. A recent survey suggests that the country will only be able to achieve a fully functional ETS by 2025.

Even so, by the end of last October, the accumulated trade volume from China’s seven regional carbon trading pilot schemes still reached RMB 6 billion ($863.9 million), a significant increase from the previous year’s RMB 4.7 billion; a total of 250 million metric tons of carbon dioxide had changed hands within the regional pilot schemes

Stian Reklev, co-founder and Asia Pacific director at Carbon Pulse, an online publication focusing on carbon initiatives and climate change policy, told TechNode that a key factor holding back development of China’s carbon market is the complexity involved—for example, in calculating the reasonable allocation of emissions allowances within the system. If underallocated, carbon credits would be too expensive for companies to purchase; on the other hand, overallocation of carbon permits could lead to dramatic price drops and possible market collapse—indeed, that was the main cause of the EU’s carbon market price crash in 2007.

To properly calculate allowance allocation, the government needs historical emissions data from companies, but Reklev pointed out that the reliability and accuracy of data reporting in China can be difficult to ascertain.

Blockchain might help solve some of the issues that have long plagued the carbon markets, such as fraud and double counting. According to Synergy, their blockchain-based platform could help with tasks such as carbon accounting or tracking emission-related data.

Individuals matter

Whether we admit it or not, everyone bears some responsibility for generating carbon emissions, whether it’s in the products we buy, the electricity we use, or the fuel that powers our businesses, factories, and transportation.

“Although climate change is affecting every single person living on this planet,” said Lin, when it comes to taking actions to reduce emissions, “the efforts take place often on the national level rather than individual.”

Personal carbon trading schemes have been proposed and tested, yet none have yet taken hold at scale. As things currently stand, individuals cannot directly participate in the global carbon economy.

Lin hopes to engage more individuals in the carbon market. Although Synergy currently specializes in the much smaller voluntary emissions reduction trading market, the company’s founders believe that by offering an easier way for individuals—as well as companies—to engage in the buying and selling of carbon credits, the concept could take root and become more prevalent in China.

Synergy’s next step, Lin said, will be implementing a standard for decentralized carbon emission trading. Currently, transaction of carbon credits must go through centralized organizations such as the Verified Carbon Standards (VCS), a voluntary program for the certification of greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Lin’s vision for a decentralized standard eliminates the need for a single entity to approve each transaction, just as Bitcoin renders unnecessary a centralized bank to process the transfer of money.

Still a long way to go

Over the past two years, Reklev of Carbon Pulse said he has witnessed the emergence of numerous blockchain projects, though he questions how many actually thrive.

The most viable ventures tend to rely on the backing of large corporations, such as when IBM teamed up last year with blockchain startup Veridium Labs to launch a carbon trading platform that records and tracks transactions on blockchain.

Moreover, in China, the voluntary carbon market is still small in comparison to the compliance market because awareness among companies and consumers is still low, said Reklev. “One of the biggest challenges for the voluntary market would be to find the interested buyers,” he said.

The demand for voluntary carbon markets will likely rise as the economy improves and people become more environmentally aware, he added.

Although the concept of neutralizing emissions hasn’t yet taken off in China, some Chinese tech companies are beginning to see value in participating in the carbon economy. Alibaba's Ant Financial launched the Ant Forest app on the Alipay platform in 2016, providing some 700 million users with an online carbon account to measure the carbon footprint of their daily activities.


Briefing: Chinese authorities to enforce new blockchain regulations in February

China imposes blockchain rules to enable 'orderly development' - Reuters

What happened: The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has released the finalized regulations concerning blockchain information service providers, which will come into effect on February 15. Under the new regulations, which consist of 23 articles, blockchain companies will be required to implement real-name registration, maintain correspondence with authorities, and provide relevant information as requested.

Why it’s important: Chinese authorities first proposed the draft regulations last October in a bid to increase control over the burgeoning blockchain industry. Though the government claims to be a blockchain proponent, it has cracked down on cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and exchange services since 2017. The move against cryptocurrencies has driven away many homegrown exchanges and wallet services. While the new regulations will provide the industry with clearer guidance, some experts worry that it would stifle the innovation in the nascent blockchain industry by driving away startups and entrepreneurs.


Blockchain is currently best remedy for supply-chain woes

From left: TechNode reporter Christopher Udemans, Eximchain CEO Hope Liu, and senior advisor at Fantom Foundation Dai-Kyu Kim (Image Credit: TechCrunch China)

Blockchain is the best mechanism currently available to deal with the problems in the supply chain, said senior advisor at Fantom Foundation Dai-Kyu Kim. His comments come at a turbulent time for the global supply chain.

Joined by EximChain CEO Hope Liu, Kim was part of a panel discussion at TechCrunch Shenzhen yesterday (November 20) focusing on blockchain's applications in enhancing the global supply chain.

Within the tech world, the safety of core technologies' manufacturing and distribution processes have recently been called into question with headlines of "spy chips" from compromised supply chains. Health risks also arise as a result of unsound practices, China's recent vaccine scandal, in which 900,000 faulty inoculations were distributed around the country, is a prime example.

According to Liu, blockchain in the supply chain enables trust between individuals in the system without the need for middlemen. "When we buy something, from let’s say, South Africa, you have no idea who that person is," said Liu. Blockchain creates a system of verification through consensus mechanisms, in which individual users of the blockchain verify the records that are created on it.

The production and distribution of materials, products, and services that are used every day are reliant on this intricate web of systems and subsystems. Despite living in an increasingly automated world, they are controlled manually, resulting in wastage and inefficiency.

"A large supply chain generates millions of emails, hundreds of hours of phone calls, and tons of paperwork," Kim said, adding that blockchain could minimize some of these inefficiencies by using smart contracts.

But there are difficulties. Blockchain for the supply chain would need to be able to track huge numbers of items, requiring transaction volumes that run into the millions, beyond the capabilities of today's technology.

Also, as supply chain companies adopt blockchain technologies with more frequency, so the number of blockchains will increase, giving rise to interoperability issues between the various platforms.

Kim says these issues are already being worked on. "In the third generation, blockchains interoperability is one of the key features that is being built into it. It doesn't mean it's going to work, but it's going to be better than the [previous] generation blockchains," he said.

Liu said that further experimentation should be encouraged. "Any effort in blockchain implementation, we should still encourage that because at least that's a learning experience in what is going to be scalable and what is not."


Briefing: Tencent Games partners with blockchain esports platform

Tencent Games Forms Partnership with Blockchain Esports Platform - CCN

What happened: Tencent Games has announced a collaboration with blockchain esports entertainment platform SLIVER.tv to create a 24/7 esports channel for new battle royale game, Ring of Elysium. The channel will feature a token rewards system created by SLIVER.tv with an interactive element that allows viewers to earn tokens that can be traded for in-game items.

Why it’s important: This is the first time Tencent Games, the world’s largest game company, actively engages with the cryptocurrency framework. However, blockchain technology is not new to the game giant. Soon after the success of Crypto Kitties, Tencent Games and a slew of Chinese internet companies started exploring blockchain technology in gaming. In April, Tencent Games launched its first blockchain mobile game.


Smartphone maker HTC sees lifeline in company's first blockchain phone

(Image Credit: TechCrunch 中国)

At TechCrunch Shenzhen, Phil Chen, decentralized chief officer at HTC, spoke about the company’s much-hyped blockchain phone and its shifting focus to blockchain and crypto.

So, is the blockchain-powered phone a hype or it is something potentially revolutionary?

Chen said with crypto and blockchain he saw, for the first time, tech’s potential to disrupt big centralized companies. Smartphones are the most accessible and ubiquitous devices where most of our data is generated, Chen said.

To empower users and allow them to “own their digital identity” and their data—smartphones would be a great place to start. Currently, user data and information are usually stored in the cloud, Chen said.

"Whether it is your identity, your purchasing behavior, your health data, your browsing behavior—none of this is own by you,” he said.

(Image Credit: TechCrunch 中国)

The Taiwan-based smartphone maker launched the early access for its first blockchain phone in October. The expected ship date for the device is in December. But to much of the audience's disappointment, Chen did not showcase the phone on the TechCrunch stage.

According to Chen, the EXODUS 1 looks nearly identical to the company’s other models but it comes with a hardware wallet called Zion, which essentially allows users to hold their “private keys"—lines of code known only to the owner of cryptocurrency which allows them to have access to their funds. Chen said bit by bit users could start gaining ownership of their own data.

The company has come up with something called “social key recovery” function that lets a user regain access to their funds if they lose their phone through, a mechanism that involves a selected number of trusted contacts.

Shifting paradigm

While all sounds very promising, many speculated that the smartphone maker's decision to jump on the blockchain bandwagon was to save its sinking ship. In July, the company announced plans to slash 1,500 jobs at its manufacturing unit in Taiwan in the midst of declining sales.

“We are going through our transitional period,” Chen sees it as the company undergoing a shifting paradigm from hardware to software. The company shipped its first Android phone in 2008, Chen said, 10 years later it is ready to ship its first blockchain phone.

However, HTC's blockchain head is “not betting on this to be an immediate success” for it still has many challenges ahead.

The company is focusing on solving the security problem—including the device's secure enclave and trusted execution environment. Before anything else, Chen said, they need to make sure the security of the device is done right.