In the first East Tech West conference hosted by CNBC, Chinese and Western tech companies and venture capitalists gathered in the southern Chinese port district of Nansha to discuss new areas for growth.
Tech leaders who spoke noted that while a handful of giant brands already dominate sectors like e-commerce (Alibaba, JD.com) and ride-hailing (Didi Chuxing) in China, there are plenty of offshoot services and new fields up for grabs. They include AI and other tech applications to the health sciences, fintech and manufacturing.
Nansha is close to the manufacturing and tech powerhouses of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in an area that used to be called the Pearl River Delta but which China has rebranded as the Greater Bay Area to rival Silicon Valley in the US. Nansha has ambitions of becoming a hub for artificial intelligence-related businesses.
Geopolitics loomed large over the three days. At almost every session, CNBC hosts asked about the impact of US-China trade tensions. Tech brands and investors acknowledged road bumps, but stressed that with Chinese tech companies – not to mention tech investors – already operating globally, the momentum may sputter but is unlikely to reverse.
“We are at the start of a new phase. Political tension will exert a huge impact on collaboration between the two countries,” said Duo Yuan, founder of Blue Stone Asset Management, one of China’s biggest private equity funds. But long term, he added: “the financial markets will be more integrated.”
The conference was held just days after US President Donald Trump’s administration urged allies to avoid using Chinese telecoms giant Huawei because of national security concerns, and just before the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Qiu Heng, president of global marketing and CMO for Huawei’s enterprise business, noted that Huawei has customers in more than 170 countries, including more than 40 of the world’s telcos and more than 200 Fortune 500 companies. “We believe,” he said, “our customers and the world will make their own right choice.”
Here are a few major themes from the conference.