About 80 high-level Chinese business executives and entrepreneurs joined scholars from the US and China in Boston on May 15 for a discussion on how both sides can work together to break new ground in today’s digital economy. They gathered for a half-day event co-hosted by China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and Z-Park Innovation Center.
“The enthusiasm and openness with which participants shared their views during today’s event is an indicator of how important it is for us to keep engaging with each other. There is still a very strong interest in doing business with, and in, each other’s markets. This is why we were able to bring with us a team of high-level Chinese business executives who are eager to engage with the local business community in Boston,” CEIBS Assistant President Dr. Snow Zhou said on the sidelines of the forum. “We hosted today’s event to provide a platform for knowledge exchange on both sides, which we hope will be useful as we move forward.”
In addition to the forum, which included opportunities to network and explore potential opportunities for future collaboration, the Chinese business executives and entrepreneurs — all CEIBS alumni and/or students — will also benefit from visits to local companies. Over the next few days they will be hosted by their peers from a range of industries, including some related to the forum’s theme. “The digital economy is becoming increasingly important and it is imperative that we — as business executives — find a way to work together for mutual benefit,” said Allen Tang, an executive at JD Finance, the finance unit of China’s second biggest e-commerce player JD.com Inc. “The US market is an important one for us and I am pleased to be a part of the activities CEIBS has planned in Boston.”
This foray into Boston is also a signal of the importance with which CEIBS itself views the US market, which is a vital part of the school’s internationalization strategy. This is the third time CEIBS is hosting a forum in the US, but this event has the added significance of being a part of the school’s 25th Anniversary Celebration.
The forum included welcome addresses by CEIBS President (European) Professor Dipak Jain and CEO of ZGC Boston Innovation Management LLC, Mr. Ming Qiao. There were also keynote speeches by MIT Professor of Physics Max Tegmark and Northwestern University’s Director of CS Plus X Initiative, Prof. Kristian J. Hammond. An impressive list of names from the US and China participated in two panel discussions throughout the day that respectively looked at the topics of ‘Creating a New Space in the e-Commerce Market’ and ‘Reshaping the Future of Finance Through Innovation’.
In welcoming the audience of about 200, Prof. Jain spoke about the evolution of global business, and how management education has changed as a result. “The new ‘diet’ of the global economy consists of digital, innovation, entrepreneurship and technology,” he said. He also shared how CEIBS is evolving as well. Building on its growing reputation as Asia’s leading business school, CEIBS has now turned its attention to enhancing its international visibility, building a strong brand presence in the US, and strengthening its European and African initiatives. All of this is being done while retaining CEIBS’ competitive advantage, its focus on China knowledge. The Boston forum accomplishes two out of three of those goals.
In his welcome speech, Mr. Qiao told the audience that it was an honour for Z-Park Innovation Center — the Zhongguangcun Development Group’s second largest innovation centre outside of China — to co-host the forum with CEIBS. “We are committed to building a bridge for innovation and exchange between China and the US. We hope that, through this event, we can enhance communication and provide better resources for entrepreneurs from both countries,” he added.
In the day’s first keynote speech, Prof. Tegmark shared his views on the timely topic of “Getting empowered, not overpowered by artificial intelligence”. There is an opportunity, he said, for us all to take a collective journey into the future with artificial intelligence (AI), an area that has already seen significant growth and progress that has changed our lives and will be the source of many more life-altering changes ahead. The question, he told the audience, was how far we would go on this journey. Will we ever have machines that can match human intelligence at all tasks? “This is the definition of Artificial General Intelligence, AGI, which has been the holy grail of AI research since it’s inception,” he explained. If AGI were achieved he noted, AI (not humans) would drive further AI development. “This would mean that future AI improvement could be much faster than the typical human R&D cycle of years, and raises the controversial possibility of an intelligence explosion, where recursively self-improving AI rapidly leaves human intelligence far behind, creating what’s known as superintelligence,” he said. He told the audience that while there are conflicting views on how close we are to this scenario, most researchers think it will be “within decades”. Humans need to be ambitious enough to envision and steer towards “a truly inspiring high-tech future” instead of complacently building machines without any thought to the consequences of making humans obsolete. This, he said, will require a change in the old strategy of learning from mistakes to one where we get it right the first time.
The entire world, said Prof. Tegmark has the responsibility for this mammoth task, with all of humanity sharing equally in the benefits and risks of having our lives changed by AI. “No country can address such unconventional and large-scale challenges alone,” he said. China, he added, is uniquely positioned to take a leading role in steering AI because the country is a “world-leading science and technology power and can therefore help lead research not only on how to make AI powerful, but also on how to make it robust and trustworthy.” He also pointed to China’s growing international influence, “together with its ability to inspire, and power to shape the global AI agenda.” He added, “China has both one of the oldest surviving civilizations and a successful tradition of long-term planning. It can therefore play a leading role in developing global AI governance.” He also spoke of global efforts and initiatives under way to ban or avoid an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons by using science to find new ways to help rather than harm; to use AI to figure out a way to make everyone better off from AI-generated wealth; and invest in AI safety research. These three parts make up the roadmap on how to win what he calls the “wisdom race” in order to create a high-tech future. And a large part of this involves building AI that empowers — not overpowers — us.
The day’s first panel discussion then focused on issues such as what would likely be the next big thing for US tech giants and Chinese e-commerce companies’ next foray. Panellists included Mr. Aravind Cherukuri, Vice President of Ocean Spray International Inc; Mr. James Lin, CEO of UNIS; Mr. Jie Tang, General Manager of Suning.com USA; Mr. Rob Weisberg, CEO of Invaluable; and Mr. Anders Zhang, Co-founder & CEO of Starluxe.
The stage was set by Xiande Zhao, CEIBS Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, who is also JD.COM Chair in Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Director of CEIBS-GLP Centre of Innovations in Supply Chains and Services. His presentation looked at trends, opportunities and challenges within China’s e-commerce and new retail landscapes. Drawing on his extensive expertise and the latest data, Prof. Zhao pointed out that the percentage of e-commerce in total retail sales in China is increasing faster than in the U.S. with the gap between the two countries widening between 2013, when it was 8.1%, and 2017 when it was 23.6%. Meanwhile, China’s cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) is growing even faster. “The demand for buying foreign goods has increased at a 34% CAGR in the past five years, and will increase 4 times by 2022,” he said, adding “the percentage of CBEC in e-commerce will double by 2022.” He also provided insights into how Chinese consumers’ preferences have changed and the new challenges that have emerged for the supply chain as a result. Chinese consumers, said Prof. Zhao, are now focused on quality and the experience a product can provide, they have a growing demand for customised/personalised products, are prepared to spend more for convenience and efficiency and willing to buy products that contribute to health and wellness. Supply chains will therefore need to be able to sense customer demand, and let it drive the entire chain. They will need to be digital, providing end-to-end data integration with digital technology, and optimize supply chain decisions based on big data. They will also need to be agile, with enough flexibility at various stages of the process to respond quickly and accurately to customer demands.
During the discussion that followed, Prof. Zhao and panellists explored the major challenges and opportunities of doing e-commerce in their respective industries, how they use digital technology and big data to support their businesses, the role of supply chain integration and innovation, as well as how they use big data to analyse consumer behaviour and design, produce and deliver products and services to improve consumer experiences and create more value for them.
In the day’s second keynote speech, Northwestern University’s Prof. Kristian J. Hammond shared his views on Leading the New Future of Digital Economy. Sharing his long-standing fascination with “the promise of machine intelligence”, he spoke of the importance of studying intelligence and the even greater pleasure he gets from building intelligence. Humans are smart because of their ability to learn from the past, Prof. Hammond noted, then using that information to shape the present and predict the future. “This link to learning holds for machine intelligence as well. Nearly all of the work in AI we see today is based on successes in machine learning,” he said. The advances we have made have opened up a mountain of opportunities, he noted, and the key to leveraging these is starting with a task. “Once you have the task, you have to understand it and link it to the data that drives it,” he said. He told the audience that new AI technologies are driven by data and analytics, with machine learning at the forefront of most of them. He stressed, though, that problems are not solved with machine learning but with the knowledge and rules that it brings. “With intelligence, the machine becomes our partner,” he said.
This was followed by the second panel discussion, which looked at fintech from the perspective of how US firms have — or have not — breathed new life into traditional financial products, how their Chinese counterparts have tried to use technology to reshape the financial industry and what the future holds for the sector in both countries. Panellists included Mr. David Fragale, Chief Operating Officer of Arwen; Mr. Eo Hao, Founder of Future Money; Mr. Jack Klinck, Managing Partner for Hyperplane Venture Capital; and Mr. Leo Zhao, Co-founder & Chairman of Mintech. Their discussion was moderated by Prof. Yan Gong, Programme Director of CEIBS Entrepreneurial Leadership Camp who is also Programme Co-Director of CEIBS Venture Capital Camp, and Professor of Entrepreneurial Management Practice. Unlike the earlier sessions and speakers, this final part of the event focused largely on blockchain and other digital currency. The discussion revolved around issues including how to evaluate crypto-currencies’ impact on the society from a broader historical perspective; predictions on which players may grow to become the future Amazon, Microsoft, or China’s BAT in the field of blockchain; and how the strengths of traditional financial talent can be leveraged to benefit the fintech industry.
The forum ended with a closing address by CEIBS Vice President and Co-Dean Prof. Zhang Weijiong who gave a brief recap of event highlights and then thanked all those who made the event possible, especially Z-Park Innovation Center, led by Ming Qiao. He also thanked the CEIBS alumni and students, including many who flew in from China to attend the forum as well as those based in the US. He also made the point that the US Forum is the first of five major events being organised around the world by CEIBS as part of the school’s 25th anniversary celebration. It comes two days before a forum in Zurich where thought leaders from Europe and China will share their views on the evolution of innovation in both regions. The next two forums will be in Munich on July 1 and Brussels on July 12. These are just some of the activities planned to mark the CEIBS 25th Anniversary Celebration in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America, before culminating in a closing ceremony at CEIBS’ flagship Shanghai campus in November. The activities will span 11 cities across four continents. The theme of the eight-month-long celebration is China Essence, Global Significance. For more details about CEIBS 25th Anniversary Celebration visit http://www.ceibs.edu/special/25/en/index.html
SOURCE China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)