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Alibaba’s Jack Ma steals stage with speech at Israel forum
2018/11/5 0:00:00  From:Global Times

A speech in Israel by Jack Ma Yun, founder and executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, has widely resonated with local media and entrepreneurs, a sign that shows the importance the nation puts on Chinese innovation and technological achievements, experts and business leaders said Friday.

Addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Israeli Innovation Summit in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Ma said: "Most people innovate for success, but Israel innovates for survival. You have no diamonds, but you have a large diamond industry. You have no car industry, but you are a leader in auto technology. You have no water, but you export vegetables to Europe."

Besides addressing Israel's tradition of innovation, Ma shared his opinions on technological advancement and what innovative people should be like.
"I know nothing about technology… I am scared of technology. I was the first product tester of my company. I said if I could use it, then 80 percent of people could use it," Ma joked.

He also declared innovative people to be believers and maybe even crazy sometimes. "Crazy people don't think they are crazy. They think other people are crazy."

Ma was part of a large business delegation that accompanied Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan who visited Israel from Monday to Thursday. Netanyahu and Wang jointly launched the Israeli Innovation Center during his four-day stay, the Jerusalem Post reported Thursday. Executives from global tech giants, including Google's Eric Schmidt, also attended the launch.

Ma's words were widely reported in Israel, with the local Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) claiming Thursday that "Ma conveyed a sense of integrity and the humility of a man who came from a humbling background. Instead of saying his wealth comes from the vast amount of money he earned, he said 'the wealth I have is having met so many great people in the world.'

"It was Jack Ma who stole the show. His flair for capturing the attention of a crowd was on full display as he delivered advice and peppered witticisms throughout his speech," said the JNS report.

Zhou Lie, vice president of China's Middle East Society, told the Global Times that Ma has chimed with the core values of Israel, a country which although lacking in natural resources, strives to survive with technology and human innovation.

"The speech's success also proves that China's efforts in technological advancement and innovation over the past four decades of reform and opening-up have enhanced a lot and even gained recognition by such an innovative country as Israel," Zhou noted.

Amir Gal-Or, chairman of the Israeli-Chinese investment firm Infinity Group, who was in the audience, said "Jack Ma really inspired us with his outstanding speech and his personal encouragement of our activity." China's innovation is being highly recognized by Israel. "It is a step-by-step process that started a few years ago. China's innovation capabilities have improved a lot and are becoming more integrated with Israeli innovation," Gal-Or told the Global Times Friday.

Investments paying off

China broke into the world's top 20 most-innovative economies in the Global Innovation Index at No.17 for the first time in 2018, a breakthrough for an economy witnessing rapid transformation guided by government policy that prioritizes research and development-intensive ingenuity, according to the annual index release in July.

The country's investments in research and development in the high-tech sector, including smart robots, big data analysis and cloud computing are soaring as the government further boosts the science and technology industry, which is also causing concerns for Western nations like the US.

"Despite the external uncertainties, we should seek more partners like the EU and Israel and continue expanding trade and economic relations with them," Zhou said.

"China and Israel have a slightly different innovation DNA. Chinese innovation is more practical and small business-oriented while the Israeli one is more disruptive," Gal-Or said.  

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