Jack Ma Wants to Help Young Entrepreneurs. Do Entrepreneurs on Taiwan?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 18, 2014
Executive Summary: The item that gathered the most attention during the "Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit" held in Taipei had nothing to do with cross-Strait business cooperation and transformation. The item that gathered the most attention was Alibaba founder Jack Ma encouraging Taiwan entrepreneurs to pass the torch on to the younger generation. That, and his plan to establish a fund to assist young entrepreneurs on Taiwan. Jack Ma shone a spotlight on Taiwan society. He expressed concern for the future of the younger generation. This is something many Taiwan entrepreneurs have probably never given a single thought.
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The item that gathered the most attention during the "Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit" held in Taipei had nothing to do with cross-Strait business cooperation and transformation. The item that gathered the most attention was Alibaba founder Jack Ma encouraging Taiwan entrepreneurs to pass the torch on to the younger generation. That, and his plan to establish a fund to assist young entrepreneurs on Taiwan. Jack Ma shone a spotlight on Taiwan society. He expressed concern for the future of the younger generation. This is something many Taiwan entrepreneurs have probably never given a single thought.
When Ma asked entrepreneurs to pass the baton, he was speaking from the heart. Four years ago, when he visited he shared his feelings. “There is no hope for Taiwan,” he said, “Seventy, eighty-year-olds are still talking about innovation. They don’t believe young people have the ability to innovate." At the time many concluded he merely lacked good manners. This time Ma once again harped on the matter. That was not surprising. Because sitting with him on the same stage was the same group of grizzled entrepreneurs. Four years have gone by but everything on Taiwan is just as it was before. The only difference is that Ma has become the richest man in Asia, and is no longer a nonentity.
To other entrepreneurs, Ma’s comments probably sounded harsh. But etiquette does not appear to be his concern. His concern is the future. "If you believe in the future,” Ma said, “you must believe in young people. If you believe in young people, you will believe that their future is bright." He looked down on MBAs. "I helped many people obtain MBAs. They started out smart. They came back dumb." He believes that the economics of the future must be "altruistic." It must pay attention to "sharing, transparency, and responsibility." He called upon entrepreneurs from both sides to establish a fund to help young people on Taiwan establish businesses on the Mainland, participate in exchanges, or study.
Leave aside the matter of whether the economy of the future must be based on “altruism." How many Taiwan entrepreneurs have ever thought about business in "altruistic" terms? How many people in positions of authority? If there are any, then why has the younger generation failed to break the curse of the 20K salary ceiling? If there are any, then why has the number of foreign workers in Taiwan surged from 300,000 to half a million over the past few years? Why do businesses still complain that the number is inadequate? If there are any, then why do Taiwan entrepreneurs threaten to flee whenever changes are made to Taiwan's fiscal policies? If there are any, then why do so many big name companies dump their industrial waste into the rivers and seas, and adulterate their foodstuffs with cheap artificial ingredients? Why do they use raw materials intended for industrial use or fertilizers?
The fact is, that without Ma’s speech, the "Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit" would have been nothing more than a trendy bash at a country club where the wealthy eat, drink, and be merry, while flashing their wealth. In recent years, many fashionable EMBA university courses are merely opportunities for students to climb the corporate ladder, expand their network of contacts, gain other peoples’ blessings, or transfer money from other peoples’ pockets into their own.
Ma is different. He has bragging rights. Taobao is a success not because Ma invented a unique business model or was exceptionally proficient at marketing. It is a success because he created a free and open platform that allowed thousands of products, from trinkets to luxury goods, to be sold online to Mainland China's rural and urban populations, to unknown buyers thousands of miles away. These transactions have propped up the economies in countless villages throughout the Chinese mainland. This is the best way to understand Ma’s "economics of altruism."
Recently, the daughter of the CEO of Korean Air lost her temper and assaulted a cabin crew chief because she was unhappy with flight attendant service. She even demanded that the aircraft turn around and return to the airport. The incident revealed how arrogant wealthy tycoons can be. Meanwhile as a result of the "third party payment" issue, Home Network chairman Chan Hung-chi blasted Banking Association chairman Li Chi-chu. Li visited to the Mainland to investigate e-commerce. Chan said Li "sacrificed those nearby to rescue those afar." This shows how out of step the government's policies and perceptions are with those of the common man. As Ma noted, over the past 15 years Mainland China has undergone tremendous changes. Many new businesses and business models have emerged. By comparison, Taiwan's economy has stagnated because entrepreneurs are too conservative and government officials are too closed minded. On this point, we ought to be ashamed.
Jack Ma wants to establish a fund to help young entrepreneurs on Taiwan establish companies. Some people may feel uncomfortable about that. They may wonder when have younger entrepreneurs on Taiwan ever needed help from Mainland entrepreneurs to succeed? But step back and think. Remember what Ma said about "altruism." If the younger generation can share ideas, why should we care so much about political boundaries? Furthermore, if Mainland entrepreneurs can appreciate the wisdom and creativity of promising young people on Taiwan, why can’t Taiwan entrepreneurs? Have they realized the problem, but have not thought of a way to proceed? If that is the case, why not take advantage of the opportunity to practice what we preach?
Taiwan entrepreneurs, why not contribute to a "Youth Fund?" Why not allow people of all ages ensure that the younger generation on Taiwan has a future.
2014.12.18 01:30 am