In order to observe some of the trends in China's blockchain cryptocurrency industry, my students and I embarked on a visit into the field on the 13th for four days and three nights. As part of an overseas training program for Korea University's first Blockchain Strategy Professional Management Program, which opened in September, we visited NEO, a blockchain company in Shanghai, and Alibaba in Hangzhou.
Our first stop was NEO, a company whose size was smaller than we expected, consisting of only 50 employees. The office took up only half of a floor – the rest being used by a consulting firm called Onchain. Due to the cramped space, explanations took place in Onchain's conference room. The company admitted that this was the first time that a group as large as ours had visited their enterprise.
NEO's strength lies in their ability to effectively utilize Reddit, Discord, Twitter, Facebook, Github and others. Because they make use of open source software, they are able to do well with just 50 employees. NEO unveiled the NeoVM source. In response to our question, "Is it easy to make a VM?" they replied, "It is difficult."
One student asked about the Chinese government’s attitude toward cryptocurrency. To this, an NEO representative replied, "Although the government has looked on it with disdain, Bitcoin has been legally recognized in two cases as private assets, so there has been a positive aspect to it." To the question, "The recent fall of the Bitcoin price seems to be affected by infighting among the Bitcoin camps. How are Chinese people receiving this?" he deflected, saying, "I am not sure." He did, however, share his views on what he considered to be excessive trading on the Korea Exchange to be one of the causes.
We also visited Alibaba. As we anticipated, we were unable to meet Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group. It is said that foreign leaders visiting China often express their desire first to meet Xi Jinping and second to meet with Jack Ma. Rarely are they able to meet Jack Ma, as he is too busy.
Our guide, a senior figure at Alibaba, revealed that employees are given two opportunities a year to meet
Jack Ma: May 10 and Nov. 11, respectively. At Alibaba, every quarter 30 percent of the employees are given promotions, 60 percent remain in their positions, and 10 percent are retired. As a result, the staff have gotten into the habit of asking each other how long they have been able to survive at Alibaba. We spent over an hour there, asking questions about Alibaba. As the Alibaba official gave his business card only to questioners, I also asked a question in order to receive his business card.
According to our guide, Alibaba does not issue coins. Private blockchain research is being done, but it will only be used inside Alibaba, making the Alibaba Coin irrelevant to Alibaba.
As a special treat, we were able to enter and look around the premises of Alibaba. There were 40,000 people working on the premises of Alibaba. Alibaba does not have set working hours, and the employees are assessed according to their productivity levels.
Alibaba's ambition lies in the eWTP (electronic World Trade Platform). eWTP refers to the operating infrastructure provided to small and medium-sized businesses, including logistics, cloud computing, mobile payment methods, and job training. Through this, Alibaba helps small and medium-sized companies participating in eWTP to be incorporated into the global economy.
If a company has a good idea, Alibaba will support that company from the commercialization to marketing stages. Taobao is an open market such as those of Amazon in the U.S. and Rakuten in Japan. When a student pointed out that the Taobao is difficult to use in Korea, the representative explained that Taobao is optimized for Chinese customers who start with chatting, then confirm quality and price, after which they make the purchase.
When a student pointed out that Korea's high-end cosmetics and fashion products did not make a profit in Taobao, the representative mentioned Tianmao. Alibaba-recognized companies are given a chance to enter the market, and Tianmao is an open market for high-end products, he said.
When asked about compensation for Alibaba employees, he said the salary is the highest and the company offers them 20 months of salary and stocks per year. More than 50 percent of its employees have shares in Alibaba, he said. When asked why Jack Ma retired, he said, "His retirement was set in motion five years ago, as he was so busy that he had no personal time," adding, "His successor is Alibaba’s CFO." When asked about Alibaba's special features, he answered, "There are no easy businesses in the world. It's hard; that is why we're here."
Noting that an unusual backstory, he said that Jack Ma does not make important decisions on his own. In a meeting with team leaders who are gathered to make an important decision,Jack Ma usually goes out to make a phone call, coming back in to ask, "How did you decide?" If a decision has not been made yet, Jack Ma goes out to make another call. Eventually, the team leaders come to their decision.
We walked along a wooden bridge connecting a large wetland park. There is a huge statue of a man in front of a building entrance, his head lowered and his genitalia exposed. The pensive statue seems to say, "Know yourself" and "You can't do anything alone."
Kim Hyoung-joong, Head of Korea University's Cryptocurrency Research Center/ Professor of Information Security Graduate School (firstname.lastname@example.org).