The Depth of Deep Ecology

Climate change and environmental degradation are increasingly considered the core challenges of humanity in the 21st century. However, proposed solutions are manifold and designed from varying ecological paradigms that have different ideas about the way we relate to nature. Deep ecology, being one of the most radical of paradigms, might increasingly come to inform our thinking on sustainability and our relationship to nature.

Observations

  • Ecological awareness is becoming an increasingly important demarcation line in politics, besides traditional lines such as economic policy, the boundaries of the public and private sphere, or immigration. In the recent European elections, green parties emerged as the big winners, while in the U.S. bipartisan convergence on the issue of anthropogenic climate change is materializing (of which the Green New Deal is currently the most radical solution proposed on the left). At the same time, the Chinese social contract is increasingly focused on environmental objectives, and the top-down structure of China’s leadership is expected to be relatively successful in establishing the required deep transitions needed in the socio-technical and socio-economic systems that underpin its economy.
  • Natural ecosystems can be considered “complex systems”’: we have limited knowledge of the inner logic of these systems, i.e. of which effects result from which causes, and they have a high degree of uncertainty (as compared to risk), thus limiting the ability of actors to intervene and establish their preferred states and outcomes. Complexity studies in general study the relations and outcomes of systems that consist of many components that interact with and adapt to each other, on almost every scale: the universe, societies, the human brain, living cells. The central idea behind complex systems is that their outcomes are difficult to model because of the many and insecure dependencies, relationships and interactions between the parts that form the whole, rendering unstable equilibria and continuously changing outcomes.
  • Environmental philosopher Hans Jonas has tried to establish a total “axiologization of being”, meaning a philosophy in which all sorts of being are equally morally valuable. Given our unique capabilities, i.e. intelligence and technology, for disrupting natural ecosystems and their equilibria, humanity has an especially important moral responsibility to take care of all sorts of being: ourselves, others, as well as nature and the environment as a whole. In a similar sense, philosopher Peter Singer claims that animals should have moral rights as well, and dismisses the claim that human beings are superior to animals and other living beings and thus are morally more important as “speciesism”: moral discrimination of other species.
  • We have written before how a “non-reductive” ontology and epistemology is emerging, that aims to overcome the dualistic distinction in modern thinking between nature and culture, man and world, subject and object, that started with Descartes. As it’s becoming increasingly clear that man is dependent upon nature for his physical and mental wellbeing, nature thus appears another one of the “masters of suspicion” that show that man is no independent, autonomous subject that relates in a rational and objective way to reality, but is deeply embedded in ecological structures (besides economic (Marx), vital (Darwin, Nietzsche), subconscious (Freud), power-related (Foucault) structures).
  • The book Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson is considered the book that propelled the deep ecology movement. The book documents the detrimental and unintended effects of the overuse of synthetic pesticides to kill mosquitoes, which also led to a mass extinction of birds in many regions in the U.S., hence the title Silent Spring, referring to the absence of chirping birds. Many more research has since then shown that synthetic pesticides, or “biocides” rarely limit their effects to the targeted organism, and Carson became an activist for environmental and wildlife perseveration and is devoted to preventing humans from interfering in the interrelated webs and symbiotic relations of natural ecosystems.

Analysis

In recent years, it has become consensus that anthropogenic climate change and environmental degradation is becoming one of the greatest challenges of humankind in the 21st century. Most agree that measures should be taken, but there is no consensus on how to address the problem. That is because most solutions are informed by different ecological paradigms and worldviews. We can discern a range of rationales, varying from more pragmatic to more ideologically driven, corresponding to the different solutions that actors have presented to address climate change.

We can discern a range of rationales, varying from more pragmatic to more ideologically driven, corresponding to the different solutions that actors have presented to address climate change.

The first is that failing to address climate change will be economically costly: climate change will disrupt value and transportation chains, extreme weather events will wreak havoc and certain areas will become uninhabitable (and some will benefit). Furthermore, being sustainable could also become a business opportunity, tapping into the greening of consumer preferences. A second rationale states in a similar sense that climate change will incur costs, but is also concerned with others sorts of harm, e.g. to our health and our wellbeing, and thus we should prevent further ecological degradation in order to protect human health and safety. A third, less pragmatic and more ideologically driven rationale is that we should not only have moral obligations towards other humans, but also to other living organisms, such as cows, horses, insects, or even plants, rivers, seas or whole ecosystems. True progress is a process that benefits all living beings in a sustainable way, as Jonas and Singer argue. Another rationale is that preventing climate change can be something of a meaningful activity in itself, because nature has intrinsic value that human beings should recognize and honor. Lastly, the most ideological rationale states that man is part of a broader natural ecosystem and that we can only be fully human when we understand ourselves and act in correspondence to the internal logic and dynamics of nature. As such, protecting the environment is a goal in itself that man has to aspire to, despite his own preferences and benefits.

This last rationale forms the core of the “deep ecology” paradigm, which envisions a whole new understanding of nature, our relationship to nature, as well as our practices in science, religion, and philosophy. The “depth” of deep ecology can be described with three core principles: i) nature has intrinsic value, is a goal in itself and should be given the space to blossom, realize its own internal growth and goals, ii) man is part of nature and has no special place in the cosmos, but is a member of its ecosystems and dependent on them for his own flourishing, and iii) nature is a complex system and man his little knowledge and skill to determine and coordinate its workings. As such, deep ecology’s critique of the first two rationales is that they are actually too shallow: they adopt a utilitarian and anthropocentric attitude to nature, in which nature is not a goal in itself. Furthermore, the third rationale is insufficient as it still conceives of nature from a materialist and consumer- or human-oriented point of view that does not take into account that man is actually a part of and dependent upon nature for his own flourishing, and leaves no room for nature’s own goals and flourishing. The fourth rationale is criticized because it conceives of nature as too simple a system, one that, theoretically, can be subjected to human will and wants. Given nature’s subtle balances and the fine-grained attunement of members of an ecosystem, human intervention will very likely result in damage to its inner workings and balance. Furthermore, it is still too rationalistic, as it cannot address the question why nature has intrinsic value, and only by digging deeper into the fundamental relationship of man and nature, our “Cartesian relationship to nature”, can we know how to deal with ecological degradation and sustainability.

As such, deep ecology ties in with the emerging paradigm of “transhumanism”, in which man is no longer seen as the independent, autonomous subject that relates in a rational and objective way to reality. Instead, he is part of a larger whole (ontology), and his flourishing depends on living nature and natural ecosystems. Furthermore, man does not have the skills and knowledge to intervene in natural ecosystems, which are highly complex and have a high degree of uncertainty (epistemology). The understanding of complex systems requires a holistic point of view; seeing how order and stable patterns emerge in these systems, e.g. collective human behavior, diseases, coherent human thought (such as philosophy), or even the remarkable stability and order in the observable universe. Furthermore, it ties in with a more deontological ethics that brings rights and obligations to all beings irrespective of their own wants and preferences (ethics). Instead, a kind of practical wisdom is required, green virtues so to speak, to establish a proper disposition towards nature that is both non-reductive as well as axiologically responsible with respect to nature (e.g. sustainable simple living (e.g. “consuminderen”), or combatting climate fatalism). Politically, this may require a stronger top-down approach to enforce the rules and meta-rules for sustainable socio-economic and socio-technical systems. As a result, societies could see increased limitations to their liberal way of life (i.e. doing what one wants, consuming what one prefers), in order to fight climate change. In this case, China’s vision of progress could increasingly come to be considered the most responsible or the best.

Implications

  • Adopting a deep ecology worldview and ethics means that many more things and activities might become “ecologically stigmatized”. We have written before that the recent rise of people adopting a vegan lifestyle is underpinned by a new sustainable consciousness and willingness to take care of the environment. In a similar sense, we can “deconstruct” other emerging consumer practices from such a socio-environmental perspective, such as local holidays or “staycations” to avoid traveling by plane, local food production to reduce agriculture’s ecological footprint, or buying second-hand clothing to evade the wasteful business of “fast fashion”. More radical imperatives could include a stigma on having children (seen as the proximate cause of pollution and consumption), physical activity (which requires food and thus energy), or people being excluded from certain ecosystems if their sustainability credit score is too low.
  • Climate change and sustainability could contribute to politics and international relations again becoming increasingly ideologically driven at the End of the End of History. However, because it is a common, non-human threat, climate change is a force that transcends the traditional division lines in (geo)politics between friend and foe, as defined by Carl Schmitt, and might be the first common cause to finally unify humankind. As such, we could also see new alliances between countries, such as the League of Sinking Nations, the Deep Ecology United Nations, as well as coalitions concerned with specific sustainability issues (such as India’s International Solar Alliance).

The implementation of 5G is important for the upgrade of Alibaba & Tencent’s services

5G is the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology, offering faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. It is expected to power industrial applications such as smarty city infrastructure and the industrial internet, but can also impact consumer services. For example, 5G will enable Tencent’s gamers to seamlessly stream PC and console-quality games on their smartphones without sacrificing processing power or battery life. For Alibaba’s short-video platform Youku, a 5G connection would mean that users can send high-resolution 4K video within a few seconds.

In fear of dependency on Western hardware, Alibaba has set up a semiconductor division

Resembling the States’concern, both Ma’s have outspoken their fear of western depencency when it comes to core technologies:

Alibaba’s Ma:

If we do not master the core technologies, we will be building roofs on other people’s walls and planting vegetables in other people’s yards.

Tencent’s Ma:

[China]’s digital economy will be a high-rise built on sand and hard to sustain if we don’t continue to work hard on basic research and key knowledge, not to mention the transformation from old to new forms of drivers or high-quality development.

In reaction, Alibaba’s R&D arm DAMO (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) has set up its own semiconductor manufacturing business and unveiled its chip in July 2019. The chip is designed to process AI tasks such as image, video and voice analysis and will be used for tasks such as autonomous driving, smart cities and smart logistics.

 

Listen to this podcast for more information about 5G in China:

The implementation of 5G is important for the upgrade of Alibaba & Tencent’s services

5G is the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology, offering faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. It is expected to power industrial applications such as smart city infrastructure and the industrial internet, but it can also impact consumer services. For example, 5G will enable Tencent’s gamers to seamlessly stream PC and console-quality games on their smartphones without sacrificing processing power or battery life. For Alibaba’s short-video platform Youku, a 5G connection would mean that users can send high-resolution 4K video within a few seconds.

In fear of dependency on Western hardware, Alibaba has set up a semiconductor division

Similar to the state’s concerns, Tencent’s and Alibaba’s Ma’s have expressed their fear of western dependency when it comes to core technologies.

“If we do not master the core technologies, we will be building roofs on other people’s walls and planting vegetables in other people’s yards.”
– Jack Ma (CEO Alibaba)

“China’s digital economy will be a high-rise built on sand and hard to sustain if we don’t continue to work hard on basic research and key knowledge, not to mention the transformation from old to new forms of drivers or high-quality development.”
– Pony Ma (CEO Tencent)

In reaction, Alibaba’s R&D arm DAMO (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) has set up its own semiconductor manufacturing business and unveiled its chip in July 2019. The chip is designed to process AI tasks such as image, video and voice analysis and will be used for tasks such as autonomous driving, smart cities and smart logistics.

Alibaba and Tencent and Censorship

Within their services and products, Tencent and Alibaba help the government by censoring keywords deemed politically sensitive, while in-house censors also delete posts and accounts. Tencent is quite active in censoring, as the company scored a zero out of 100 for WeChat’s lack of freedom of speech protection and lack of end-to-end encryption in a 2016 Amnesty International report on user privacy.

Alibaba and Tencent have high hopes for the cloud

For Tencent and Alibaba, the cloud started as a crucial component of their internal economy. Over the past few years they have branched out, offering their in-house products to businesses.
Today, Alibaba dominates cloud computing in China with a 43% market share. Under Jack Ma, Alibaba made cloud computing a key priority, and CEO Daniel Zhang plans to make cloud computing technologies an even bigger part of Alibaba’s corporate focus over the next couple of years (for more information see Alibaba’s company profile).
Tencent’s cloud business is the second largest in China, with an 11% market share, according to industry researcher IDC. The company entered the ‘cloud-game’ relatively late, and recently announced to spur its push in cloud computing by investing billions of dollars. This move can be seen as part of its overall strategy to shift focus from its consumer-faced business to the industrial internet. Its cloud-computing business should cater to industries such as retail, mobility, healthcare, and education.

Alibaba and Tencent are members of the National AI Team

Starting in 2017, the Chinese government recruited Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and iFlyTek to lead key projects in the development of next-generation AI technologies. Alibaba’s cloud computing division was tasked with a smart city project to improve urban life (see Smart Habitat layer for more details), while Tencent has been designated to become a leader in AI-assisted medical diagnosis.
Government endorsement helped Tencent to launch its AI Medical Innovation System, an AI-powered diagnostic medical imaging service. The technology currently has accuracy rates of over 90% for preliminary diagnoses of esophageal cancer, 95% for lung sarcoidosis, and 97% for diabetic retinopathy. Several of Tencent’s AI departments, such as the AI Lab and Tencent Youtu Lab, collaborated to develop the image recognition, using the over 1 billion images on the company’s social network. After the success in healthcare, Tencent is looking to apply its AI knowledge to other applications, such as transportation solutions, security, and protection, as well as voice recognition.

In this episode of the ChinaEconTalk podcast, China expert Jeff Ding of the Future of Humanity Institute discusses the detour Tencent is making from the national champion designation [12:18-13:35]:

Alibaba and Tencent are working on the city of the future…

ET City Brain
The Chinese government designated Alibaba with the task of applying innovative technology to improve urban life. This resonated in Alibaba’s cloud-powered and AI-driven urban project “ET City Brain,” which aims to use AI to optimize city-services in real-time. One of Alibaba’s first pilots focused on reducing traffic congestion in Hangzhou. The video below shows how innovations within several layers of the Stack (think of Cloud Computing, Facial Recognition, and AI) are merged to improve traffic speed up to 11%.

PATH
A joint effort in the smart city area is PATH (Ping An, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei), a smart city initiative in which these four Chinese tech giants apply their core technologies and an investment of 50M RMB in order to propel China into the global smart cities race (and of course to counter some major problems such as air pollution and congestion).

…but rural areas are also a key priority for Alibaba and Tencent

While smart digital applications are often first rolled out in #tier 1 or 2 cities, both Alibaba and Tencent are currently working on a Rural Strategy. Especially Alibaba sees tier 3, 4 and 5 cities and rural areas as an important new addressable market.
Striking examples are:

•  Tencent-backed WeDoctor and Alibaba’s Good Doctor are making healthcare more accessible for patients in tier 3 and 4 cities.
•  Alibaba invested 716 million USD in Huitongda Network, a platform that offers a variety of business models to help offline stores sell goods via e-commerce offerings, and also help online retailers sell directly to rural residents.
•  Alibaba launched Rural Taobao in 2014, allowing rural residents to buy and sell items online through the company’s Taobao online marketplace. Since its creation, Rural Taobao has expanded steadily, growing to cover 29 provinces, more than 700 counties, and over 30,000 villages.
•  Juhuasuan is Alibaba’s group-buying and flash-sale platform and will be repositioned as an online marketplace for consumers in tier-4, tier-5 cities and rural areas.

“China is experiencing an ongoing consumption upgrade as people look for different ways to enhance their lifestyle. (…) We are now seeing more and more consumers in China’s less-developed regions becoming sophisticated shoppers. They are demanding the same high-quality products as those in top-tier cities.”

– Jiang Fan, President of Tmall and Taobao

Tencent and Alibaba aim for a friction-free consumer interaction through voice

Both Alibaba and Tencent are investing in new consumer interfaces. For example, they are discovering the power of voice as an interface, and more specifically the smart speaker;

Alibaba’s voice assistant is called Tmall Genie. The device is on the market as a regular speaker since 2017 but is also available as a mirror (Tmall Genie Queen) as a device in connected cars (Tmall Genie Auto), and with a built-in monitor (Tmall Genie Family).

The Voice Assistant will become an increasingly important player in our life. I believe that in the coming decade, it will be connected with more devices and be the point of connection for different scenarios in our life, using voice commands to control our homes, vehicles and our personal devices.”

– Miffy CHEN, General Manager, Alibaba AI Labs

Two years after Alibaba, Tencent launched its smart speaker Xiaowei. The launch of Xiaowei is seen as a move of Tencent into diversifying its products and services into more business and industries (such as the B2B and IoT market). Besides, Xiaowei (in English ‘WeChat italking’) will link WeChat users with Tencent’s services available through QQ and WeChat.

Tencent and Alibaba are investing in facial recognition technology

Based on the number of facial recognition patents, Tencent is more active in the field of face recognition than Alibaba. Nevertheless, both companies have already implemented facial recognition in real-life situations.
Tencent is working closely with government in implementing facial recognition. For example, some provinces are issuing electronic identification cards for their citizens using WeChat’s facial recognition technology. The mobile IDs can be used for authentication instead of carrying physical ID cards – mandatory for citizens at all times in China – for travel booking, real name registration at internet cafés, and other security checks. Furthermore, amid tighter scrutiny by the Chinese government, Tencent uses facial recognition to detect minors in relation to concerns that excessive video gaming is damaging public health.

In 2017, Alipay unveiled its facial recognition payment service ‘Smile to Pay.’ The company says that as facial recognition technology takes the place of QR codes, “paying by smiling” will most likely experience explosive growth over the next three years. Statistics from Alibaba during 2018’s shopping festival around singles day also suggest that payments through the face and fingerprint scans now make up 60% of all transactions.

Alibaba’s Smile To Pay system in KFC:

Alibaba and Tencent are developing their own social credit systems

The best-known private system is Sesame Credit, developed by Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba. Sesame Credit is a scoring system that generates individual credit scores for consumers by tapping into Alibaba Group and Ant Financial’s vast online ecosystem and other personal credit information sources. Sesame Scores, which range from 350 to 950 points, are calculated based on five factors – credit history, behavioral preference, fulfillment capability, personal attributes and social network – and are indicators of the users’ creditworthiness. Although the system’s focus is on creditworthiness, a low score can have an impact beyond loans (e.g. being banned from certain hotels) and a government blacklist has also been integrated. At the same time, a high score gives members the possibility to relax in special lounges at China’s train stations or to use bike sharing platforms HelloBike and Ofo deposit free.

Listen to this NPR podcast on the rollout of a Chinese Social Credit System and the role of Alibaba in it:

Tencent is also testing a credit scoring feature for WeChat Pay. Similar to Alibaba’s Sesame Credit, its score is calculated based on WeChat Pay’s pool of data, particularly on personal consumption behaviour. According to Tencent, the purpose is to “provide services that make people’s lives simpler and more convenient.” Users with high scores will be rewarded with perks such as waiving of deposits for rental services and hotels, and paying for services and goods after delivery.

Tencent and Alibaba contribute to the State’s innovation goals

Although Tencent and Alibaba are originally consumer-focused companies, they are expanding their businesses to the ‘industrial internet’, which involves the broader adoption of advanced consumer and industrial applications that take advantage of next-generation technologies for business purposes.

For instance, Tencent is teaming up with Huawei Technologies, a Chinese multinational technology company that provides telecommunications equipment and sells consumer electronics, to accelerate innovation in core technologies, such as AI and cloud computing.

Meanwhile, last year Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma called for Chinese traditional manufacturers to fully embrace what he called the “New Manufacturing” model. New Manufacturing involves a transformation of traditional manufacturing industry by integrating technology capabilities in the internet, data, AI, cloud computing and IOT. “Proposing the New Manufacturing model is not because Alibaba plans to enter the manufacturing industry, but rather to help manufacturing companies to innovate and upgrade,” Ma said during the 2018 Cloud Computing Conference in Hangzhou. “During this shift, the current manufacturer-oriented industry will transition to a new era led by customers, where small and medium-sized enterprises can benefit the most.”’

Incubators
Furthermore, both Alibaba and Tencent invest heavily in startups and support emerging companies with incubator programs. Tencent’s WeStart for example operates innovation spaces where it offers start-ups office space to rent and incentives such as tax exemption for three years and favorably-priced access to Tencent’s products and infrastructure. Furthermore, the company assists start-ups to target government-backed support programs. Meanwhile, Alibaba’s Cloud division teamed up with the U.S. workspace operator WeWork to develop an incubation program for 20 foreign startups to enter China, and assist 30 Chinese companies to expand overseas.

Alibaba and Tencent investments in electric vehicles

Alibaba, Tencent and several other Chinese companies have joined efforts to meet China’s ambitions concerning green growth of the automotive industry. They have setup car-sharing services T3, which is powered by renewable energy, called T3.

Other examples of investments in the green future of this industry are Alibaba’s leading role in the 2.2B RMB funding round in Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese electric car maker that aims to speed up the development of electric vehicles. Alibaba elaborates on this investment: “As a clean energy vehicle start-up, the investment in Xiaopeng Motors fits with Alibaba’s strategic focus in the automotive sector. Under our open-platform approach, we will continue to work with a range of automotive manufacturing partners to benefit Chinese consumers”.

Alipay and Wechat transformed China’s Digital payment landscape

China is a country where Visa and Mastercard are (still) banned, and it has an underdeveloped banking system. As a result, Chinese society remained largely cash-based for a long time. Nevertheless, when China started to manufacture cheap mobile phones, Alibaba and Tencent successfully set-up their own mobile payment solutions known as Alipay (by Alibaba) and WeChat Pay (by Tencent).

Users of these payment solutions link their bank cards to the wallet inside the app. Once linked, they are able to use the wallet as a debit card for direct payments in stores or for online purchases. Furthermore, users can transfer money from their bank account to create a balance on the wallet.

The digital solutions provided by Alibaba and Tencent made it extremely easy for consumers to pay with their mobile phone. In 2018, over 85% of purchases made in China were on mobile payment platforms.
In physical shops, merchants offer consumers the opportunity to pay with WeChat Pay and Alipay mostly with QR codes.

Alibaba and Tencent are incorporating the next wave of Chinese entrepreneurs

Established in the late nineties, with founders around 50 years old, Alibaba and Tencent are classic examples of companies that stem from the previous generation. Alibaba and Tencent realize though that today’s wave of entrepreneurs is bringing products and services that appeal to Generation Z, and this is the reason they are heavily investing in innovative startups within and beyond the Chinese border. Furthermore, to arm themselves against newcomers, Alibaba and Tencent are combining their strengths to secure their position (see section 1).

Alibaba and Tencent are SOE-investors

As a testing-ground of the mixed-ownership reform, Tencent and Alibaba have both invested in China Unicom, the country’s second-largest wireless telecom operator. These investments are financial, but are also intended to improve the services of state firms. For example, Alibaba and Unicom launched a cloud knowledge venture in order to meet demand from SOEs and governmental institutions in China for innovative technology solutions. Tencent and China Unicom are amongst other things, working on a network security platform.

Tencent’s hometown is a Special Economic Zone

Tencent’s hometown Shenzen was appointed one of the first Chinese area’s to be a SEZ. Tencent – founded in 1998 – witnessed the effects of the nomination: the share of high-tech industries in its total industrial output increased from less than 10% in 1990 to nearly 40% in 1998. Companies could make use of incentives such as access to quality infrastructure, corporate income tax exemptions, exemptions from tariffs on high-tech equipment and special treatment for employees. Other companies that arose in this area were Huawei and ZTE ( global telecommunications equipment, networks and mobile devices company).

Alibaba and Tencent endorse the Communist Party

Tencent released a mobile game titled ‘Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech’, in which players have 19 seconds to generate as many claps as possible for Xi.

In 2019, Alibaba reportedly developed the popular Communist Party propaganda app ‘Xuexi Qiangguo’ (in English: study to make China strong). Alibaba staff is said to be responsible for developing and maintaining the app that includes news, videos, livestream and community comments.

Confucian philosophy & Daoism underlie Alibaba’s corporate culture

Without the philosophy of Buddhism, you cannot do well when your business grows to a certain extent. If you do not know the philosophy of Daoism, you have no chance of winning during competitions. If you do not understand Confucian philosophy on the construction of organizational system, you have no chance to be sustainable when your company grows to a certain size.”

– Jack Ma, Founder and CEO Alibaba

Alibaba’s Founder and CEO is strongly influenced by China’s idea of the good life. He always carries a copy of the Tao Te Ching, the foundational text of Taoist philosophy, is a big fan of Tai Chi, and has held meetings with the senior executive team of the company in a temple. Under the eyes of Buddha, the focus would naturally be how to help others, to help ever more people.
Furthermore, Ma actively spreads the Taoist way of thinking among company employees. In the early days, all of them had a Kung Fu nickname (Kung Fu and Taoism are closely linked), Jack Ma’s being “Feng Qingyang”, which refers to an “unpredictable and aggressive” swordsman.
According to Brian Wong, Alibaba’s vice president of global initiatives, an understanding of the principles behind the philosophies do help in having a better grasp of why the Chinese tech market works the way it does. “China is much more about integrating as opposed to taking over or competing in the traditional sense,” Wong explains. “We want to create and integrate.”

Rare earths are none of Tencent’s and Alibaba’s business

Rare earths are none of Tencent’s and Alibaba’s business. Apart from Alibaba’s semiconductors, both companies do not produce goods, and therefore they are not investing in, or owning, rare earths.

Tencent has dipped its toes in vertical drama

Tencent first dipped its toes into the vertical drama category in 2018, releasing short series like My Boyfriend-ish Sister and My Idiot Boyfriend. These entertainment shows are specifically designed for the mobile screen.

Example of vertical drama by Tencent
Source: V.QQ (2018)

Alibaba and Tencent go big on blockchain

Alibaba and Tencent, together with internet giant Baidu and telecom company Huawei, have all filed information about their blockchain cloud services and issued white papers that stress the importance of developing blockchain-based cloud services as internet providers for third parties. Last year, Alibaba topped the list of the most patent applications focused on blockchain-related technologies in the world, with over 90 patent applications.

Tencent has been building blockchain services since their first white paper in 2017, and developed their TrustSQL platform as a product, service, and an application layer to provide digital asset management and authentication. Furthermore, Tencent has partnered with Intel to develop a blockchain for Internet of Things applications, while starting to test blockchain financial applications with the Bank of China in 2017.