Geopolitics

ARABICA: A Quick Shot Of What's Brewing In The Arab World

ARABICA: A Quick Shot Of What's Brewing In The Arab World


A R A B I C A
ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie

TUNISIA TURNS PAGE
Newly sworn-in Tunisian President Monsef al-Marzouki said his primary task is "building the republic into a pluralistic democracy and tolerant society." The challenges ahead are due largely to the "enormous devastation left by dictatorship," with Marzouki pledging to strive for the "development of women's rights, especially equality."

*@Yemen notes the importance of Marzouki's swearing-in date: "On this same day, December 13th, one year ago, police attacked a produce vendor named Bouazizi in the province of Sidi Bouzid."

*Essam al-Zamal from Saudi Arabia tweets with a similar shout-out to the produce vendor whose act of self-immolation sparked the Tunisian revolution, and set off the snowball effect of the Arab spring. "Exactly one year after Bouazizi's wake-up call, Monsef al-Marzouki assumes the presidency of Tunisia – praise be to Allah."

*"Bless the Tunisian people and Arabs as a whole on the election of Monsef al-Marzouki as president of the Tunisian republic and to more revolutions leading to the free election of presidents," says Tareq al-Mutiry from Kuwait.

SYRIAN MEETING: 1 VERSION
Baladna news published a report out of Doha, Qatar claiming that Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani held a secret meeting in Jeddah with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Mouallem, on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference gathering. Citing a Qatari official, al-Thani reportedly offered Mouallem a palace in Doha and $100 million to defect from the Syrian regime. Mouallem turned down the offer, saying he would never defect from the ruling Baath Party.

SYRIAN SHOOTING: 2 VERSIONS
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement that 11 people were shot dead by the civilian-clad militia known as the shabiha in the two villages of Maret Masreen and Kafr Yahmoul, both near the Turkish border. The Syrian official news agency, SANA, had a different version of events, saying that a "terrorist group" tried to infiltrate Syria in an attack originating from Turkey. Two "terrorists' were killed, SANA reported. Turkey denies its territories being used to launch any attacks on Syria. Earlier this month, Turkey imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Syria.


Dec. 14, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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Future

How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

SIPA Asia/ZUMA
Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.


For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.

https://www.lesechos.fr/idees-debats/editos-analyses/la-chine-est-desormais-une-fenetre-sur-notre-futur-1347064
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