China, India race for future technologies as Ambani beats Ma as Asia's richest man

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/18 21:23:39

Asian neighbors can cooperate while also competing: experts

General view of world's most expensive home "Antilla" in 2010 in Mumbai. File photo: VCG


Mukesh Ambani in New Delhi on June 15, 2017. Photo: VCG

Chinese billionaires like Jack Ma Yun of Alibaba Group Holding and Pony Ma Huateng of Tencent Holdings have ridden China's internet boom to global fame, becoming some of the best-known Asian faces in the global technology field and dominating international headlines. That may be about to change.

On Friday, Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, chairman of conglomerate Reliance Industries, became the richest person in Asia, displacing Ma, after the company's share price was reportedly boosted by its expansion in telecom and e-commerce.

After a surge in Reliance's shares on Friday, Ambani's net worth was estimated at $44.3 billion, surpassing Ma's net worth of $44 billion as of last Thursday's market close in New York, where Alibaba is listed, according to Bloomberg.

The news drew wide attention in China, where some painted the change in the ranking as a loss for China and suggested that India could overtake China's success in internet and technological development in recent years.

"Ma Yun's title as the richest person in Asia has been taken away by an Indian," read the headline of an article widely circulated on Chinese social media. "He just started to do e-commerce last month, and now he has surpassed Ma Yun to be the richest person in Asia," the headline of another popular article published on read.

While the article covered Ambani's personal and business history, including his family's business and his billion-dollar, 27-story family building outside of Mumbai, the article also pointed out that the internet has become the major force in making billionaires, a shift from real estate and manufacturing.

India, with its massive population and relatively low internet penetration rate, has huge growth potential for the internet and other technology sectors, such as big data and artificial intelligence (AI), according to Xiang Yang, an industry expert at Beijing-based CCID Consulting.

"Such rankings change very quickly, but no doubt India could become an internet and technology powerhouse," Xiang told the Global Times on Wednesday, pointing to the country's strength in software, a massive talent pool and robust support from the Indian government.

Under its tech-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has launched a series of initiatives to support innovation and entrepreneurship, including Digital India, Make in India and Start-up India. Aiming to compete with China on technologies of the future such as AI, India is also going "all-out" on AI with concerted efforts, the Economic Times reported.

However, China is far ahead in many aspects, including research and development of new technologies and their application in real life, according to Xiang.

"It is very natural for India and China - two Asian powers - to compete on everything from economics to technological capabilities. However, there should be an element of cooperation," Qian Feng, a research fellow at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Qian said that India and China both attach great importance to technology development and have a "strong complementarity."

"More importantly, bilateral relations have been warming up and the two governments should set up channels to enable such cooperation."

Newspaper headline: China, India race for future technologies


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