Is China the AI/tech leader of the world? Many governments and researchers still say no (most of them with biases), but they do concede that wherever we are today, China is catching up fast.
Maybe the statement is true overall (for now), but in a number of specific fields, China definitely leads the way, impressively so.
For example, Tencent, the 20-year old world’s largest gaming and social media company, this week announced a Tencent Music IPO in the US, expecting to raise about $23 billion.
Tencent Music was officially launched two years ago and has some 800 million unique monthly users. Shenzhen-based Tencent last year surpassed $500 billion in market value and, according to the Boston Consulting Group, has the fifth highest global brand value.
Just in case you don’t live in Asia and aren’t as aware, Tencent offers the instant messenger Tencent QQ along with QQ.com (huuuuuuuuge), and WeChat, possibly the world’s most powerful app. The company also has e-commerce, mobile games, payment systems, smartphones, multi-player online games and more. It owns the majority of the world’s largest and most profitable music services.
A group around Pony Ma (Ma Huateng) started Tencent as a Cayman Island company in late 1998, funded by VCs and with a focus on the QQ messenger. It invested big in gaming and three years ago launched WeBank and also struck a $700 million deal with the NBA to stream basketball in China.
Beyond WeChat, WeBank, WeGame and more, the company owns large stakes in Hollywood entertainment companies, video makers, Tesla and others. Pony Ma is in his forties and worth north of forty billion dollars.
Last year, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology named Tencent a national champion for its AI ambitions, along with Alibaba and Baidu. Collectively, the group is known as “BAT”.
President Xi Jinping declared AI leadership as China’s goal by 2030 – we conducted a big China case study in our 2018 AI research and travels, and looking at 5G, quantum encryption, vision, genetics, robotics and other advancements, it looks like firms and countries better take these ambitions seriously.