The Tech Kings
Technology is now involved in every aspect of business. These Chinese are changing both China and the world.
Jack Ma is a Chinese business magnate and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a family of successful Internet-based businesses. Jack Ma is the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes. As of November 2014, he is the richest man in China (Hong Kong not included) and 18th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $24.1 billion, according to Forbes. In 1999, while he was a teacher, Jack Ma founded Alibaba. It immediately had some success connecting small Chinese manufacturers to overseas customers. yuan (then $66) a month. Mr Ma already had big dreams. Since then, Alibaba has come to dominate internet retailing in China, which will soon be the biggest e-commerce market in the world. It has moved beyond its original remit of connecting businesses to each other to ventures that let companies sell directly to the public (Tmall) and enable members of the public to sell to each other (Taobao). Between them, Taobao and Tmall processed 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) in transactions last year, more goods than passed through Amazon and eBay combined (see table 1). The company that started in Mr Ma’s apartment now employs 24,000 workers at its headquarters in Hangzhou and elsewhere. In the year to September 2012 it made $485m on revenues of $4.1 billion.
Cao Guowei (Charles Chao)
As CEO of Sina, Charles Chao manages China’s largest Internet portal and ushered in the spread of microblogging. Sina Weibo is now credited with lending a voice to both the famous and obscure, and has become a powerful tool for access to information. In 2009 the chinese government, concerned about how information could spread rapidly among millions of people over microblogs, blocked Twitter and shuttered domestic equivalents. Amid those obstacles, Charles Chao saw an opportunity. A journalist turned accountant who rose through the executive ranks to head Sina, China’s largest Internet portal, he backed the company’s own microblog service despite the failures of earlier players. And Beijing approved it, thanks in part to Sina’s record of keeping content the government deems sensitive off its 20 million blogs. The result, Sina Weibo, is a high-powered service that Chao, 45, calls a mashup of Twitter and Facebook. Weibo’s photo and video features, plus the natural conciseness of the Chinese language, make it wildly popular in China. It reached 100 million users in March, vs. 200 million for Twitter. Weibo’s ranks are filled with celebrities and athletes, scholars and artists and millions of regular folks from across the Chinese-speaking world. It is censored, Chao acknowledges, but it is also one of the freest online platforms in China.
Ren Zhengfei is the Founder of Huawei Technologies. Ren built a telecommunications giant that stretches from East to West, an empire of thousands of engineers with powerful research and development abilities. Ren currently holds 1.42% of the shares in Huawei. Born on October 25, 1944 into a rural family where both parents were school teachers, Mr. Ren Zhengfei spent his primary and middle school years in a remote mountainous town in Guizhou Province. In 1963, he studied at the Chongqing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture. After graduation, he was employed in the civil engineering industry until 1974 when he joined the military’s Engineering Corps as a soldier tasked to establish the Liao Yang Chemical Fiber Factory. Subsequently, Mr. Ren had taken positions as a Technician, an Engineer, and was lastly promoted as a Deputy Director, which was a professional role equivalent to a Deputy Regimental Chief, but without military rank. Because of his outstanding performance, Mr. Ren was invited to attend the National Science Conference in 1978 and the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1982. Mr. Ren retired from the army in 1983 when the Chinese government disbanded the entire Engineering Corps. He then worked in the logistics service base of the Shenzhen South Sea Oil Corporation. As he was dissatisfied with his job, he decided to establish Huawei with a capital of CNY21000 in 1987. He became the CEO of Huawei in 1988 and has held the title ever since.