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China’s internet giants go global

Tencent is leading the acquisition spree, with Alibaba a close second

 Print edition | Business
Apr 20th 2017 | SHANGHAI
THERE was a time, not that long ago, when China’s big internet companies were dismissed by investors in Silicon Valley as marginal firms with a tendency to copy Western products. Not any more. Today they are monsters with increasingly hefty international ambitions.

Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce group, handles more transactions each year than do eBay and Amazon combined. Jack Ma, its chairman, pledges to serve 2bn consumers around the world within 20 years. Tencent, which specialises in online games and social media, is now the world’s tenth most valuable public firm, worth some $275bn. Pony Ma (no relation), its chairman, wants China to “preside over the global tech revolution of the future”. But as the two firms become global forces, the third member of China’s “BAT” trio of internet giants, Baidu, an online-search firm that came to dominate the mainland market after Google left the country to avoid censorship, is lagging behind.

All three firms differ from their Western peers in important ways. First, Western companies usually prefer to focus on a few core areas, whereas Chinese internet firms typically try to do everything from cloud computing to digital payments. When this works, as with Tencent’s wildly successful app, WeChat, the results can be impressive.

Second, with the exception of political censorship, the internet sector in China is lightly regulated. Facebook, Apple and Google, in contrast, face increasing scrutiny. Chinese internet firms can achieve market domination of a sort that would attract close attention in other markets.

The third difference is that they can succeed on a rapid and massive scale because the state-dominated economy is so inefficient. Often there is not even a physical infrastructure to leapfrog—so-called third-tier cities, for example, often lack big retail centres. Nationwide there is one shopping mall per 1.2m people.

A huge home market has not stopped the trio from fighting bloody turf wars among each other. The outcome to this battle is rapidly becoming clear. Tencent and Alibaba are surging ahead; a series of own goals has left Baidu far behind. The common jibe about Baidu among local experts is that it is becoming the Yahoo of China, a once-dominant search giant that sank owing to a lack of innovation and a series of management blunders.

Its revenue growth fell to 6.3% in 2016, down from 35% in 2015 and 54% in 2014. The firm gets some nine-tenths of its revenues from online ads, but this income is plunging as marketers redirect spending from search ads on Baidu to social-media networks like WeChat and mobile-commerce platforms run by Alibaba. Meanwhile, Baidu is burning cash trying to keep its various big bets on artificial intelligence (AI), online video, virtual and augmented-reality technologies, and “online to offline” (O2O) services going. One of China’s most respected business consultants is pessimistic about its future: “There is very little chance they’ll be relevant in five years.”

Of the other two giants, Tencent is probably the most fearsome. It already has higher revenues and profits than Alibaba (see chart). Its value is set to climb as it ramps up advertising on WeChat (provided that does not provoke a backlash from users). Its main weapon against Alibaba is its stake in JD.com, the country’s second-biggest e-commerce firm, led by Richard Liu, one of China’s most aggressive and successful serial entrepreneurs.

JD.com has adopted an expensive “asset-heavy” business model akin to Amazon’s in America. Thus far, its vast investments in warehouses, logistics and couriers have not come anywhere near toppling Alibaba. But last year the company saw its revenues rise to $37.5bn, up from $28bn the previous year. Its share of China’s business-to-consumer market rose to 25% in 2016, up from 18% at the end of 2014. If Mr Liu’s investments in infrastructure start to pay off, much of Alibaba’s future domestic growth could be at risk.

That threat may explain why Mr Ma is not content with Alibaba’s overall 70% share of the local e-commerce market. In 2016 it spent $1bn to win control of Lazada, South-East Asia’s biggest e-commerce firm. In March Lazada launched a new service for Singaporeans directly to shop on Taobao, one of Alibaba’s two domestic e-commerce platforms (the other is Tmall).

Mr Ma last year persuaded the G20 summit of leading countries to endorse his proposal for an “electronic world trade platform” (eWTP), to make it easier for small businesses to trade across borders. Last month Alibaba launched a “digital free-trade zone” as part of the initiative, in Malaysia. This public-private partnership, which involves simplifying both logistics and payments, will help small merchants.

Mr Ma’s chief weapon for going global, however, is Ant Financial, which was spun out of Alibaba before the latter’s $25bn flotation in 2014 in New York. In China the unit offers services ranging from online banking to investment products; it even runs the mainland’s first proper consumer credit-scoring agency, Sesame Credit, which uses big data to work out the creditworthiness of punters. Ant already has more than 450m customers in China and is going overseas with gusto.

It has investments in local online-payments firms in Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea. In America Ant is in a frenzied bidding and lobbying war with Euronet, an American rival, to buy MoneyGram International, a money-transfer firm. On April 17th Ant raised its initial offer for MoneyGram by over a third to $1.2bn, topping Euronet’s bid.

Tencent is also making bold acquisitions abroad. A consortium that it led spent $8.6bn to acquire Finland’s Supercell last year, a deal that turned Tencent into the world’s biggest purveyor of online games. Together with Taiwan’s Foxconn, a contract-manufacturing giant, the firm invested $175m last year into Hike Messenger, an Indian messaging app akin to America’s WhatsApp. It was also an early investor in America’s Snapchat, another popular messaging app, whose parent company Snap went public in March.

One reason for these purchases is that Tencent’s earlier efforts to promote WeChat abroad (including a splashy advertising campaign in Europe featuring Lionel Messi, a footballer) flopped. Established social networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp proved too entrenched to dislodge. They also did some copying of their own: once they adopted some of WeChat’s innovations, Western consumers had little reason to switch to the Chinese network.

Such investments have been in Tencent’s core areas, away from turf occupied by Alibaba and Baidu. Sometimes, the trio end up co-operating, if not by design. All three BAT firms are backers of Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing firm with global pretensions of its own. But in other ways their domestic war is spilling into foreign markets.

India is one such battleground. This month, together with eBay and Microsoft, Tencent invested $1.4bn into Flipkart, a leading Indian online retailer. Alibaba and Ant together are reported to have invested nearly $900m in Paytm, India’s top online-payments firm; in February, Paytm launched an e-commerce portal akin to Alibaba’s Tmall to take on Flipkart and Amazon in India.

Elsewhere, Tencent unveiled a service last month that will allow firms in Europe to use WeChat to sell on the mainland. This will let them sell directly into China, avoiding red tape. Tencent also recently invested $1.8bn in America’s Tesla, a pioneer in electric and autonomous vehicles. That is a particular challenge to Baidu, which is betting its future on machine learning and AI.

Baidu’s push abroad is mainly a way to get access to talent in these fields. The firm has just started its first recruiting campaign at top American universities, including Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It has a respected AI laboratory in Silicon Valley, despite the recent departure of Andrew Ng, an AI expert. But Baidu does not have the same firepower as Alibaba and Tencent. It tried but has failed to conquer foreign markets such as Japan with its search engine. This week it opened up its self-driving technology to rivals, as Tesla did in 2014, but it has a long way to go before it makes an impact in autonomous driving.

Grandiose BAT statements about global aims should be taken with a pinch of salt. It would be an error to neglect the profitable domestic market. Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, reckons that China’s online retail market will more than double in size by 2020, to $1.7trn. As Duncan Clark, author of a recent book on Alibaba, points out, whatever headlines Mr Ma and other internet bosses make with their overseas ventures, “it takes a lot to get away from the sheer gravity of China.” But at home and abroad, one thing is clear: China’s internet titans cannot be ignored.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline "Three kingdoms, two empires"

 

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3 Signs of a False Teacher The way to know a lie is to know the truth.

The way to know a lie is to know the truth.

Written by Joy on 05/10/2014
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Jesus, Lies, Teaching, Truth
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing.” 1 Timothy 6:3-4

We need to know God’s truth so we can recognize false teachers. Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” (Matthew 7:24) There are many signs of false teachers, but here are three common signs:

1. Contradicting Jesus’ Teaching
Religious teachers who require certain works in order to earn salvation do not agree with Jesus. Jesus taught that we are saved by grace through faith in his death on the cross. (John 1:12; 3:16) He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me” (John 14:6). Teachers who say that all religions lead to God, or that everyone is going to Heaven, oppose the clear teachings of Jesus. Anyone who contradicts the truths that Jesus taught is a false teacher.

2. Not Encouraging Godly Living
God’s plan is for us to live pure lives with faith and love. Our goal is to please God, not ourselves. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me.” (John 14:15) Teachers who tell you to do whatever feels right are not teaching you to follow Jesus. Our feelings, and even our logic, can be wrong. “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom will be kept safe.” (Proverbs 28:26). Godly teachers always direct you to the Bible. But false teachers encourage you to trust in them as the source of truth, or in yourself.

3. Filled with pride and wrong motives
False Teachers don’t understand the true power of God’s Word. 1 Timothy 1:6-11. They debate and argue over parts of the Bible, causing divisions and putting themselves above God. Are they smarter than God, who promised that His Word would stand forever? Their purpose is not to draw people closer to God, but to raise themselves into positions of power and wealth. I Timothy 6:5 says “These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt and they have turned their back on the truth and a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.”

In order to identify counterfeit money, you must study the real thing. In the same way, when you study the clear teachings of Jesus Christ, you guard yourself from false teachers who want to sway you from the truth.

Pray this week:

To recognize any false teachings that you have believed.

The world denies God's standards, and God's Word, and even denies that Jesus is the only Way to salvation… Do you know people who do this? Do you know how to respond to them? Find out by talking to a Christian.

 

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What Happens When We Die?

Rich or poor, in spite of all our efforts, everyone will die sooner or later. There are many opinions about what happens when we die. But what does God have to say about it?

Written by Dan Lee on 01/06/2014
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Death, Eternity, Heaven, Hell, Jesus
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment . . .” Hebrews 9:27

Death is Certain
Rich or poor, in spite of all our efforts, everyone will die sooner or later. There are many opinions about what happens when we die. But what does God have to say about it?

Eternal Life – Two Kinds
God’s word, the Bible, tells us that each person’s soul lives forever. Today’s scripture from Hebrews tells us that after death comes judgment. This leads us to one of two destinies: Heaven or Hell.

We know that Christians, who have received God’s free gift of salvation and forgiveness, will spend eternity in Heaven. There, they will have loving fellowship with God and His people. Sadly, those who have rejected Jesus Christ will not go to Heaven. The Bible teaches that their certain destiny is Hell. In hell, suffering, hopelessness and regret last forever. There is an absence of God that brings deep grief.

Heaven is the best possible place to spend eternity and Hell is the worst. The difference between these two outcomes is very big.

The Decision is Yours
Church attendance won’t get you into Heaven. Nor will living a good life, or doing good deeds. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Later in Romans we find that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

We must first admit that we are sinful and separated from God. Then we must turn away from our sins, turn to Jesus Christ, and ask for God’s forgiveness. By believing that Jesus took the punishment that we deserved, we accept and receive God’s gracious gift of salvation by faith. “For as many as received Him, he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believed in His name” (John 1:12).

Don’t Delay
No matter your age, there’s no guarantee that you will live until tomorrow. In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus told a story of a rich man who trusted in his possessions. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 16:20).

I urge you: Don’t wait another day to come to Jesus for salvation. Find out how to accept Jesus Christ today.

Pray this week:

To thank God for sending His Son, Jesus, to offer forgiveness of your sins.

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 Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.

Peter Kesaris
Director of Architecture & Design Customer Experience at Empire Office
6 years ago to date, I was hit by a car and nearly killed. After being stuck in a wheelchair for 6 months, doctors didn't know if I would be able to walk normally again. This week I ran my first half marathon.  Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do.  Follow my story on Instagram: @pakjan6 (edited) 

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Don’t Ask God For Things

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual
blessings in heavenly places in Christ
(Ephesians 1:3). 
The purpose of prayer isn’t for us to get God
to do something for us. In fact, did you know
your heavenly Father doesn’t want you asking for
things? Someone who finds this surprising could be
wondering, But Jesus said, “Ask and it shall be given
you” (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9).
Yes, He did say that, but that was before the
emergence of the new creation. “Ask and it shall be
given you” was His teaching on faith and confidence in
the Lord before His vicarious death, burial, resurrection
and subsequent ascension to the Father to inherit all
things in our behalf. Now, He’s made us joint-heirs
with Him (Romans 8:17). The Bible says, “…his divine
power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto
life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3).
Having discovered these truths, what would you
really want to ask God for? We read in our opening
verse that you’ve been blessed with all spiritual
blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Stop
asking God for things in prayer. Use the power and
privilege of prayer for higher purposes, like fellowship
Don’t Ask God For Things
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual
blessings in heavenly places in Christ
(Ephesians 1:3).
Psalms 142-145
1 Corinthians
11:2-34
Colossians
3:12-25
Jeremiah 13
Prayer
Dear Father, I thank you for
supplying everything I need to
live triumphantly for your glory
and fulfil my destiny in you!
I refuse to fret or struggle for
anything, for you’ve brought
me into the place of rest and
superabundance, where all my
needs are met, in Jesus’ Name.
Amen.
with the Father. You own the world. All things are
yours (1 Corinthians 3:21), because you’re the seed
of Abraham.
God already knew everything you’d ever need,
and before you came on the scene, He made them
available to you. He’s blessed you with all things
already. There’s nothing today you’ll like to have that
you don’t already have. “Yes, Pastor Chris, I know the
Bible says all things are mine, but the reason I’m not
enjoying them is because I really don’t have faith.”
No; you do have faith if you’re born again. You
only need to act on the Word. The Bible says, “…
God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith”
(Romans 12:3). The same measure of faith was given
to every one of us when we received the Gospel of
Christ. Moreover, that measure of faith you received at
the New Birth is enough to move mountains (Matthew
17:20). Use what you have. Exercise your faith. 

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Train up a child in the way he should go

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is
old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
It’s the responsibility of parents to train up their kids in
the way of the Lord. That’s what the Word says:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old,
he will not depart from it.”
Some parents would say, “We try not to impose
anything on our children; we just let them make their
decisions themselves.” What an error! The Bible says,
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod
of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
Children aren’t allowed to make their own decisions; they
need to be trained and guided. Parents have a responsibility
to know through the Spirit of God, what their children should
be, and raise them in that direction.
Some parents act as though God said, “Leave the
children to me, and I’ll determine how they’ll grow up”; He
didn’t say that. Rather, He said parents should train up the
child in the way he should go. If you already have children,
let the Holy Spirit guide you in bringing them up in
righteousness. Keep training them in the Word. Even when it
looks as though they’re not imbibing the culture of the Word,
keep at it, and don’t despair. Give some time; the results of
the training will be evident. Soon enough, they’ll come into
the right place, and be all that God destined for them to be.
PRAYER
Dear Father, I thank you, for your
Word has in it, the ability to make
me what it talks about, and
Train Them With The Word
produce in me, and in those
you’ve placed in my care, an
unalloyed commitment to you.
We’re yielded to the Lordship of
Jesus Christ, and to the guidance,
and tutelage of the Spirit, in Jesus’
Name. Amen.
1 YEAR BIBLE
READING PLAN:
Acts 9:32-43
Ezra 1-3
2 YEAR BIBLE
READING PLAN:
2 Corinthians
7:1-8
Isaiah 8
FURTHER STUDY:
Proverbs 23:13 NLT
Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Proverbs 29:15
Pastor Chris

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