Sibos Update

Five minutes with Pascal Coppens, author of ‘China’s new normal’

Pascal Coppens, entrepreneur and author of ‘China’s new normal’, landed at the Sibos Summer Snapshot event in London in June to share his insights into why and how China is setting the standard for innovation globally.

Before jumping on stage, Pascal sat with us for a one-to-one conversation about the main points of his talk and his experience living in China for the last 20 years.

From payment systems to how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing society and disrupting the average citizen’s lifestyle, Pascal illustrated how China is some years ahead of the West in adopting new technologies. This is down to a combination of factors. Firstly, Pascal believes 90% of the Chinese population are entrepreneurs, eager to build something new to service an enormous consumer market which demands more products, faster, creating an agile dynamic in innovation. Secondly, China is becoming an increasingly rich country, richer than the United States in terms of purchasing power.  Thirdly, Pascal believes the Chinese government is more supportive of trial and error initiatives, meaning regulation will only be implemented after innovative ideas have been tried and tested. This is very much the opposite of what happens in Europe, where regulation leads the process and building of innovative structures and solutions follows. This gives China an advantage as those ideas that work through the trial and error process can be taken to scale very quickly.

In many fields, Pascal sees China overtaking the US as a technological superpower, especially in consumer related areas. When it comes to deep research, the US is still in many aspects anything from 1 to 10 years ahead - depending on the industry - but the gap is narrow enough for China to catch up. Micro electronics for example is one of the most challenging fields for China to catch up on, whereas China is as advanced as the US in software development and smart manufacturing, if not more so. According to Pascal, the biggest change in the latest stage of the industrial revolution is a shift in focus from connectivity and the internet, to data and AI. This has very little to do with research and more to do with obtaining larger amounts of data and quickly implementing algorithm improvement.

Barriers to entry for technological innovation are much lower in China because its consumers are more willing to test new products and services, increasing companies’ access to data and their ability to feed that data into algorithms. These algorithms can become extremely powerful very quickly and are in some ways better than those developed in the West. In a future of automation, robotics, and AI-based smart software, notes Pascal, the cycle of coding, training and tweaking algorithms becomes essential.

The whole finance market is about to be disrupted very quickly as a result of technology playing a bigger part. “The fintech world as we know it is becoming more tech and less fin,” says Pascal.  China is building very powerful ecosystems with big data companies – such as Alibaba and Tencent - and hundreds of innovative smaller entities are linked to their platforms as partners. This makes a broad range of technologies cheaper, more easily accessible and more customer friendly for Chinese consumers. Looking at what is happening in the East is fascinating insight into how the future of technological transformation will unfold.