The second interview between Linda and Mr. Tu Zipei
TU ZIPEI CEO of Data Civilization (Guangdong) Science & Technology Co., Ltd
LINDA LIU Founding Partner, Patent Attorney Linda Liu & Partners
Sometimes it is not a good idea to offer advice. Throughout my whole life, I like to be a “mentor” and “make decisions” for others. I would be a little bit worried after really giving my advice. But as a person who always wants to do her friends a good turn and genuinely offer the advice that she thinks is right, when entering her fifties with grey hair, she found that the result of her advice eventually proved to be good. In fact, as for whether Tu Zipei should return to China from Silicon Valley and start his business in China, it seems that I also contributed some ideas. Zipei visited our office in Beijing in 2014, thanks to an introduction from our mutual friend, Mr. Xinhui TU, who is an attorney - at - law. An idea arose in my mind - I should get to know him, know the stories behind his first book - Big Data, and his growing experience. At that time, I interviewed him for the first time. Maybe Zipei and I are tied by destiny, and it is just because of this interview that I started a new challenging job - Linda and her interviewees. Since then, I interviewed some people, and a friend even said: Linda, your major job is to do interviews! (Laugh)
After that interview, Zipei asked me for advice in a modest manner: “Linda, do you think whether I should stay in the US or back to China?” I acted as a mentor again, and answered: Chinese people believe good timing, geographical convenience and good human relations contribute a lot to success. The foremost factor is good timing. There won’t be better timing than now to come back! There must be a use for your talent, especially at this time. After that, Zipei came back and joined Alibaba Group as vice president. Later he left Alibaba and started his own business. So, whether it is a good idea to encourage him to come back does not matter anymore, Zipei has already come back and has been developing his business of big data application.
Five years later, I came to Guangzhou again where I interviewed Zipei for the second time. Now big data has achieved remarkable progress compared with the even a few years ago. In this interview, we not only talked about big data, but also celebrated the publish of Zipei’s third book - The New Civilization Upon Data. “The Trilogy of Big Data” authored by Zipei: Big Data Revolution; Big Data: History, Reality and Future; and The New Civilization upon Data, laid a solid foundation for the research of big data in China. As some professionals have commented, “Zipei is the big data thinker of our time.” This comment is not an exaggeration. We hope that Zipei will do more research and make more in - depth exploration in future.
I’ve read the “Trilogy of Big Data” carefully - Big Data Revolution; Big Data: History, Reality and Future; and The New Civilization upon Data, especially the third one, The New Civilization upon Data. I met lots of new concepts in this book, and many young people in Linda Liu & Partners said: this book seems to be a Jin Yong novel - it is Jin Yong’s martial arts novel in the time of big data. Honestly, I have the same feelings as them. This book not only contains Zipei’s thoughts about big data, but also tells us about “how to improve ourselves in the time of big data”. The three books are referred to as the “Big Data Trilogy” by Chinese media. Among them, the first two books - Big Data Revolution and Big Data: History, Reality and Future, put more emphasis on the United States, and described the big data revolution in the past 200 years. The book The New Civilization upon Data was completed in China and it is more grounded. After working in Alibaba and opening up your own company, Zipei, as a young talent who cares about history and cares about the United States, and is now turning his perspective to China. So there have been some changes in your writing logic. If readers have read all three books, they will notice these changes.
Well, my first question is, Zipei, how do you think about these changes? After all, the three works are completed at different stages, and you must devote different time and efforts into each book. I want you to share some of the stories inside.
Tu Zipei: Linda, thank you for coming to Guangzhou from Japan.
Regarding these three books, there are indeed a few points worth talking about. Each of these three books took me eight months. I made a plan before writing. After I got a plan, I would urge myself to strictly follow a schedule over the next eight months. It is so hard to complete the plan!
Linda: Eight months in total, how many hours did you spend in writing every day?
Tu Zipei: An average of six hours a day. If there is less work one day, the writing time may be a little longer. If it is a hectic day, I need to write for six hours in the middle of the night. So I was the one who slept the latest and got up the latest (about 7 - 8am) in the family. When I got to bed, my family were all falling into dreams. When I got up in the morning, my wife had already sent the children to school.
Linda and other readers have noticed the changes in the perspectives of these three books, especially the third one, The New Civilization upon Data, where the perspective has changed to China from overseas, which is also the perspective of the public. I remember when I participated in the show of Century Lecture Hall of Phoenix Satellite TV in 2013, I said that big data would bloom someday. In fact, we have seen its blossoming today. It has become a hot topic.
I am still very much concerned about big data in China, and I am worried that it may become a “negative word” in the next period of time. When big data was first created, it was a new technology that brought hope to mankind. But now we see that it is slowly evolving into worry, fear, and we have to start discussing its negative effects.
What does negative mean? As you said before, big data is a piece of clothing, I think it is true. We all wear clothes, but in the cyberspace, some parts of it have begun to be digitized. We can be penetrated by people with data analysis tools. At beginning, they can only penetrate a certain part or the jewelry we are wearing. But with the deepening of digitization, this process suddenly accelerates, and we suddenly seem to be naked, that is, our privacy is penetrated.
Linda：In fact, before having this interview with Zipei, I remained ambivalent about big data. Before 2003, I worked in a firm. The essence of my work was to collect data and information of clients. This should be the original form of big data. We started to do marketing like this.
Therefore, sometimes we find that we have been doing one thing, but when people generalize this matter into a general concept, we begin to have a resistance to this superior concept. For example, this lady is a Chanel girl, which may mean that she loves Chanel’s clothes, so she seems to be unable to get rid of the influence of Chanel. In fact, sometimes, none of us want to be labeled or be constrained within a certain framework.
Before coming to Guangzhou, I had a two - dimensional concept of big data. One is that it is a good thing in itself, but on the other hand, as you said, it will go to the other extreme once it is overused. Anything, if overused, will have a negative effect. Just as if a child relies too much on his mother, one day he will have an antipathy to his mother.
As we discussed when we gathered at your home yesterday, I firmly believe that the three books Big Data Revolution; Big Data: History, Reality and Future; and The New Civilization upon Data will show our collective Chinese concerns and thinking about this new era in human history, at least in Chinese history. For me, who often travels in Japan, Europe and the United States, I especially hope that more foreign friends will read these three books, particularly the reflections on history and summaries of science in the book.
When reading The New Civilization upon Data, I finally realized the motivation and far - reaching significance of the invention of the mouse, and where the concept of AI came from. In fact, in the 1960s and 1970s, some of the best scientists in the United States had taken the lead in doing research, but it is not clear whether these results are known by young people who are good at using big data today. Your three books are particularly well done, whether from the perspective of popularizing scientific knowledge, or the perspective of systematic research on a particular kind of field. From theory to practice, including the follow-up new works, your transformation has turned out very well, and I believe you will do better.
As you said earlier, big data may have a negative impact on people. It makes people wear clothes that are vulnerable to being penetrated. It may force a country or a company to conform to a certain development trend, or be constrained to a certain development mode. As a scientific thinker, are you determined or ambitious to guide companies to break down the shackles of big data while complying with its inherent law?
Tu Zipei: I am mainly working on two aspects. History is created by humans. If we can exert influence on the development history of big data in China, then we may change the trajectory of history. Today, it is only the state, companies and organizations that have the access to big data, and, in fact, the role of individuals is quite limited. We saw the power of big data, and it has empowered the government and companies, but it hasn’t benefitted individuals. If data awareness and the skills of using data are well spread, then individuals would have the consciousness and ability to achieve a balance in the whole process of national governance and business governance. Then this process would be changed. This is what I am trying to do.
I came up with a concept of “Data Quotient”, which is analogous to EQ and IQ. Put simply, everyone has the ability to control data acquisition, comprehend and analyze data, and use data. This ability can be measured, so it is called a “Quotient”. If personal ability is improved, big data will not only be used for government surveillance and marketing of company, which would only lead to the penetration of personal privacy and big data declining into a negative term.
Extending beyond this topic, we will find that this matter is of great significance to Chinese society, far more so than privacy. In fact, because of China’s short history of industrial civilization and insensitiveness to data, we need to have a stronger sense of data. Data is the carrier of science. Science is actually derived from data. What China needs more is to strengthen the awareness of, and ability to use, data of the public and individuals, rather than creating new resentment against it because of privacy.
I am doing a new thing now, writing a set of books about big data and AI for teenagers and children, hoping that it will enlighten the next generation of China. One is to tell children about big data, the other is to tell them about AI, and they will be published this year.
The heroes in history changed the trajectory of historical events, thus changing history and making themselves heroes, that is, heroes create history. Looking back to the year of 2012, Big Data Revolution was published in China and caused a lot of repercussions. As it was the first of the trilogy, I did one thing, namely systematically expounding the concept of “open data.” I explained open data in detail, which influenced a first group of readers and officials who were exposed to big data in China. Many government officials realize that it is the government that has the most abundant data resources in society. After reading my book, they were inspired, and realized that these data resources should be opened up and become useful resources for the new era and society.
Some commentators believe that this book has an enlightening effect on Chinese society. Mr. Huang Renyu proposed the concept in his book A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline that China lacks “mathematical management”. Mr. Huang Renyu used the implementation of “mathematical management” to explain the rise of Western capitalism, while Big Data shows how a modern society can achieve efficient governance by analyzing the application of big data.
Of course, Mr. Huang Renyu’s work has been selling well in China for 20 or 30 years, affecting several generations of readers. Compared with him, I still need to continue to work hard. However, my case study and concept of introduction of open data may happen precisely when China’s social governance calls for transformation the most urgently. The combination of two concepts of “big data” and “open data” largely originated from my first book. Without this book, we mainly talk about how to do marketing and what is the business value of data. But now when it comes to big data, the first thing we think of is that big data is controlled by government, and the government wants to open up data, so this book has changed many people’s preliminary understanding of big data.
Linda：When I was talking to Mrs. Tu last night, I got a feeling that people
who can write such a good book must be affectionate. Just now, Zipei mentioned that the hero made the era, it is true, but at the same time I also believe that the era makes heroes. Numerous unknown people dedicated themselves to the development of society, but we always need a person leading us to move forward. This person who holds a torch and bravely moves forward must be a pioneer. Sometimes, he almost burns himself and uses up all his strength, but he will be remembered by history and future generations forever. Many of us have not burned ourselves. We seem to have an insipid and steady life, but we have not left behind anything special. The person holding the torch not only illuminates the people behind him, but also lights up a road for mankind.
So, I think your third book, The New Civilization upon Data, has a particularly good name. I would think of the era of Meiji Restoration in Japan. The word “civilization” in Chinese actually came from Japan. “Civilization” could be interpreted in many ways. You are very clever: for the first book Big Data Revolution, the word “big” makes everyone feels very shocked; the second book, Big Data: History, Reality and Future, sometimes reminds me of the top of the world; and the third book, The New Civilization upon Data, may be the most striking of the three.
We are living in a good time. Although we still face various problems, all people solve the problems brought about by the times and the world with a peaceful and kind view. Therefore, when you chose the name of The New Civilization upon Data, did you also consider the interpretation of the word “civilization” in other countries?
Tu Zipei: Yes, I even traced it to the source. I chose The New Civilization upon Data as the name as it has two dimensions. The first dimension is that data makes the world more civilized, and the second dimension is based on Chinese characters, that is, data transcends words and creates a new “brightness”.
The word “ civilization(文明)” in Chinese characters, if traced back to the source, means everything that human beings have created today.
The state of “ brightness (明)” is based on characters(文). Note that it is characters, not language.
What is the essential difference between characters and language? Primitive people were able to speak, and spoken language was invented long before writing. But communication via spoken language can’t be preserved - the sounds would dissipate like wind. Human civilization did not really begin until humans wanted to record the things they exchanged in writing.
If the human development history of the past 750,000 years is condensed into one year, in this new coordinate system of time, one day can actually represent 2055 years. Before written characters came into being, the progress of human civilization remained extremely slow. In the
last three days of the year, upon the emergence of characters, the progress of human civilization was greatly accelerated. Papermaking, steam engines, electric motors, automobiles, the Internet, AlphaGo, etc., all the important milestone events of human civilization took place in the “last day” of this year.
So it can be said that characters have an extremely important existence that is beyond language.
A map of the concentrated development History of Human Civilization Source: The New Civilization upon Data
In addition, when writing this book, I also watched a movie called “Arrival”, which is a famous science fiction movie from 2016, telling the story of aliens coming to Earth. Aliens constantly send signals to humans, with several huge spacecraft drifting above the humans. The humans become nervous, but they and the aliens can’t understand each other’s signals. So the humans organized a team of scientists including a physicist and a linguist. The physicist arbitrarily believes that physical methods can decipher the information that aliens supply, whilst the linguist believes that language must be used as material for decipherment. However, neither of them could decipher the signal through the linguistic and physical methods. Finally, using characters works. They record every signal that the aliens pass to us, and crack them one by one.
The inspiration of this story is to make a record. By writing down the words that have been said, civilization can be created. Today, photographs are recordation, sound recordings are recordation, and these are data. I take recordation as a family. In fact, characters only account for a part of the entire recordation family. There are also recordations of images, sound and database, which are very extensive and broad. So, in my opinion, we are creating a new civilization today, because civilization comes from recordation, and as we can record with more abundant means, so we are creating a new civilization.
I also did some research on the word “civilization” in English. Its counterpart in Chinese is more interesting, meaning that our “brightness” comes from “characters”. The word “civilization” in English means that the whole society is slowly changing and has formed intrinsic achievements. After human beings have preserved the inherent achievements in the process of development, it has become our civilization. Are these two words in Japanese more similar to Chinese characters?
Linda：This is a good question. In modern Chinese, many vocabularies are “Japanese- made Chinese”. In the 19th century Meiji Restoration era, the Japanese translated many advanced Western concepts which were introduced to China in the later period. The word “civilization” in Chinese originated from Japan. The word “civilization” in Japanese is a translation of English “civilization” and German “Zivilisation”. But the Japanese (Kanji) characters representing “civilization” is semasiography, which means “brightness” comes from “characters”. If you can take some time to visit Japan, I would like to arrange some Japanese friends to meet with you, and they can explain their understanding about “civilization” to you and how they promote and pass down their civilization over the past 100 years.
I especially hope that I can accompany you to visit a Japanese company. This is an automobile manufacturing company which is a client of mine for years. They have activity space for children to encourage their divergent thinking and to design their own dream car, letting the children participate in the shape design work of the future car.
Therefore, I think that these two books about big data and AI will not only have a great impact on our Chinese children, but also on many foreign ones. Therefore, we should try our best to make this trip possible. I will invite Japanese friends to introduce Japanese civilization, and talk about their application and understanding of AI and big data. I think there will be many Japanese friends who will ask your opinion, not only your personal views as a big data expert, but also what Chinese domestic companies are doing, thinking about, or even other aspects of China. In fact, some of our domestic entrepreneurs are also taking the lead in doing something, but we also have to see that the Japanese business community is likely to have some more practical activities. I especially hope that after visiting the Japanese companies, you can push the Chinese industry to make new adjustments.
There are some interesting words in The New Civilization upon Data, for example, “universal recordation”, “single granularity governance”, “explicit society”, all of which are new to me. Could you give us a brief introduction?
Tu Zipei: Indeed there are some new concepts in The New Civilization upon Data, like “society without fluke mind”, “data right”, “data foundation”, “data governance”, “data power”, “data ripple”. Ordinary readers can understand and recognize new phenomena in society by using new concepts. As we just discussed, those who hold torches of knowledge must find ways to generalize this new knowledge into concepts that can be easily understood. “Universal recordation” means that human beings can make recordation whenever they want and wherever they are. In the past, human beings chose what can be recorded and worth recording, but now and in the future, recordation happens automatically and we choose what is not worth recording. “Single-granularity governance” refers to the atomization of people under surveillance. By putting forward the concept of “data ripple”, what I want to convey is that our society is actually showing ripples, because now we keep records every time we do something, and constantly leave traces in the data space. This trace becomes the ripple of society.
Linda：These ripples are invisible and untouchable.
Tu Zipei: There is also a term “High-Definition Society”, which means that society is getting clearer. In the past, our society was rather vague. Neither the government nor the company would know what a person did, but now more and more people are getting information through the data ripple, and society is becoming clearer.
Most consumers do not know that we have rights over data, so I put forward a word “data right”, which corresponds to human rights and property rights, and which I believe will become the third important right in the future human society. It is often said that data is an asset, but you will find that only the boss is saying it and ordinary people don’t feel it. But where does the boss’s asset come from? He turned the data collected by countless people in society into his assets. For example, Alibaba is a big data company, the biggest asset is data, but where does its data come from? Everyone is a contributor of data.
So the question is, if I buy stuff on Alibaba, do I have the right to request Alibaba not to record my consumption behavior? Data is the carrier of your privacy, if I have the right to request Alibaba not to record my purchase behavior and if everyone requests Alibaba to do so, is Alibaba still a big data company? Whether data can be continuously collected, this is what our legislators should consider in the next step.
Linda：Therefore, in this respect, the governments of all countries must constantly solve the social disputes caused by big data. For example, you just mentioned that the bosses are collecting data, but the consumers who contribute data, and the employees who process the data, seem to get nothing. They even are also required to sign a confidentiality agreement with the company. In the end, the result is that they are invisibly deprived of their ownership and use rights over data.
Then in the future, with the emergence of some disputes and problems, society will be re-adjusting itself, and new policies, laws and regulations will be produced. So, according to your prediction, the future society should be more civilized, more reasonable, and more humane. At that time, everyone will know that they are both contributors and stakeholders. Can we think so?
Tu Zipei: Yes, I think in the next five to ten years, we will see clearly that data will play a decisive role in society as a whole. Governments and companies will become a comprehensive data governance organization. The state will rely on data to govern society. The competition among companies is mainly centered on data. Professor He of Shanghai Jiaotong University will soon publish the book Warfare on Big Data. What is warfare on big data? It is the war among companies to compete for data. In 2012, I came up with the concept of “data warfare” in the first book Big Data Revolution. At that time, my prediction was that data would be the battle field for future.
Yesterday, Professor He gave me this book and invited me to write a preface. He told me that this is the first book dedicated to describing data warfare, which shows that this concept has been gradually accepted by the public. The competition among companies today, in essence, is a war over data.
Linda：Zi Pei, sorry for my interruption and I want to mention something else here. Before coming to Guangzhou, I stayed in Osaka for a while, visiting Panasonic and the museum of Mr. Matsushita with our colleagues. During the visit, I was deeply moved by a sentence of Mr. Konosuke Matsushita - ”道を開く”, which means that you have to open your own life path. When I saw that sentence, the first thing I thought of was that I need to tell you about it when I came to see you again in Guangzhou. I also bought a book in the museum and gave it to Nancy Geng in our Shanghai office. I hope she will share what she learns from the book with you after finishing reading it.
Mr. Matsushita started his business when he was a teenager. Later, in 1918, the company was renamed to the current name “Panasonic”. So Panasonic has just had its hundredth anniversary last year, and it is a typical century-old company. Mr. Matsushita once said: “I didn’t go to school, and my physical condition is not good.” But he turned all his weaknesses into strengths and walked out on his own life path.
I truly admire you every time I see you, because you don’t belong to any research institutions, and no one instructed you to study big data. I feel that you are really a romantic person who has dreams. In my opinion, you are my younger brother. You have opened up a life path as a big data thinker, and it is “a road of no return.” On this road, I believe that in your entire future life, you will be “entangled” with big data.
I really hope that you can go to the Max Planck Institute or the Harvard Institute, where you can complete your lifelong research, because you are a valuable academic expert. We talked about some tough problems last night. Everyone has his own duty, and if sometimes we are out of line with our duty, it will be on our consciences. Things will get harder and harder if it is not managed. Chinese scholars in the past were ashamed to talk about money, but today’s scholars cannot avoid the problem of money. It is impossible to do research without money. So you are a determined and independent scholar in the road of academic research.
I assume that readers and friends might want to know how you think about studying big data and writing so many books about it. Writing a book is too difficult, I think. A Nobel laureate once said that writing a book is the loneliest process, and he is so lonely that he did not want to continue any more. How do you think?
Tu Zipei: I did experience these feelings (laughs). Because the three books add up to nearly 700,000 words, and the writing process is rich and fulfilling, but it is lonely at the same time. Just now we talked about the duty and fate. When I thought of these words, I thought of “the sense of propriety” that you mentioned. I often ask myself, what is our duty and fate? In other words, what is our mission to the world? Are we born to do something?
You will find that the world and society are very interesting. If the world completely follows your plan, then the world will be too boring. Think about it from another perspective. If everything is unexpected, completely different from what you think, what happens every day is unpredictable, then society is terrible. So there is “the sense of propriety” in the middle. The plan, duty and mission we set for ourselves are also constantly adjusted as life moves on.
Sometimes we need to transcend our duty and values that we had thought. Our mission and duty is dynamic and constantly evolving. It is accidental that I am engaged in writing. As a man with science and engineering background, my duty should be writing programs. When I was in the US, I was split. I wrote programs when I got to the office, and started writing in Chinese after I got home. At that time, I was writing a column for a newspaper, and my earliest writing began from that time. I sorted out and commented on some news happening in American society, and then published them in Chinese newspapers, hoping to bring some new perspectives and inspiration to Chinese readers.
The concerns for the day and night were completely different. In the daytime I cared about the problems of the natural sciences and code, and at night I cared about the social sciences. One tool is code, and the other tool is characters. This kind of life lasted for about two or three years. After that, the column was welcomed by readers in China. Due to my professionalism and interest, the column naturally focused on a topic — data. Thinking and writing now become my new duty.
Linda：Zi Pei, you should start thinking about how to use the
data from a different perspective to make it work better from then on. In the future, if China’s big data can be used in different ways, then big data will bring a lot of benefits to China and even humanity. In fact, this is what I wanted to say before. You should be able to play a leading role in this aspect, because you understand the advantages and disadvantages of big data, and you are principled and responsible.
Tu Zipei: Yes, this is one thing I have been thinking about for two years. The Chinese society is actually a “Low Data Quotient Community.” Big data has been around for seven years, and ordinary people still don’t know how to use it. We just said that big data empowers the government and enterprise, but it does not empower ordinary people. The public has no right to know about their own data, let alone the right to handle it. I am thinking about how I can give this kind of skill to the general public in the future era of big data. Therefore, I also have been considering some publicoriented enlightenment projects, including big data and AI courses designed for teenagers.
Linda：To be specific, for companies, what matters is not obtaining the data of potential consumers and consumers, but making a more
detailed analysis of each consumer; how to let consumers get some benefits that they did not expect. This is crucial. In this aspect, it is necessary for companies to make their own efforts, and at the same time, you and other big data experts should give them some guidance so that everyone would start to think how to distinguish AI from human intelligence. I think the most important analysis is the deep analysis of people, not the superficial data.
The next question, I guess, is a question that many people will be interested in. Zi Pei, you are the man of our time. In this era, basically everyone dares to challenge themselves, and dares to deny themselves.
You are always challenging yourself. What do you think is the biggest challenge you have faced? The decisions to give up the good living conditions in the US and the great offer by Alibaba, what do they mean to you?
Nowadays the young generation would like to join big companies. In particular, gifted people think that their talent should be recognized by big companies as they will make huge contributions, and be brave enough to come out and prove themselves after encountering difficulties. What do you think about it?
Tu Zipei: To answer your question, firstly, I would like to explain that in fact, the biggest challenge and turning point in my life was to decide to go to the US. Before I went to the US, I was working as a civil servant, and my position and treatment were very good. My father’s expectation was for me to be promoted to the level of director soon. Later, when I decided to leave China for the US, my parents thought it was incredible. My father was so angry that he directly rejected my plan. My mother of course loves me, but she got caught in the middle. At that time, I lived with my parents. They all thought that my choice was wrong.
Linda：How old were you?
Tu Zipei: I went to the United States in 2006 when I was 33 years old, and had worked in China for 10 years. When I arrived in the US, my classmates called me uncle. My mother said to me: “Son, I don’t want to discourage you. I just think that it will be very hard. You are close to the position of deputy director. But you have to start from scratch again in a new place. I love you. Please think about this decision again”. But I still insisted on my own thoughts. My father got very angry and then simply moved back to his hometown. It was my wife who supported me all the time.
Linda：So, you should always be thankful for your wife.
Tu Zipei: We should all find outside support.
What happened later is also interesting. When I came to the United States, my father had not spoken to me for a long time. He thought that I made the wrong choice. Later, I graduated, found a job, bought a house, and had a child. When everything settled down, I asked my father to come to the US to see me. After my father came, he felt that my life was quite good and stable. He said: “You are living and developing well in the US. Don’t come back.”
Then, as you know, I later came back from the US. My father thought that it was wrong to come back, but I still joined Alibaba. Later he visited Alibaba, and thought Alibaba was a good company. So he said “stay in Alibaba and work hard.”
Linda：And then you left.
Tu Zipei: Yes, I left again. So the question I often think about is how we treat the advice given by people around us when we grow up - how do you treat people around you, how do you stick to what you believe? My answer is that in our growth, we must have the courage to make breakthroughs. In the end, you will find out that only the breakthroughs we made will be our real-life story. In fact, people tend to change others into the same kind of person as them. This is the power of the masses, turning you into the same as them. Most people are unwilling to take risks and make breakthroughs. The road to adventure and breakthrough is difficult, which requires willingness to take risks and face pressures.
I encourage young people to believe in their own judgments. Many people have not succeeded because they care too much about what people say about him. Actually no one can make the decision for you. Only you know what you want the most. Today’s young people are well educated and have enough wisdom and insight to be their own person. So I encourage young people to make decisions for themselves. This is an important experience gained in my growth.
Even now, my father often gives me advice. He is a typical Chinese father. What I was doing was not to go against my father’s will. I think this is a kind of transcendence and a different way of thinking. Our times change too fast. Our fathers’ values represent the last generation, and his judgment may not necessarily adapt to the times.
The second big decision I made was to leave Alibaba. I remember I wrote a letter to Jack Ma that night, a long letter of resignation.
Linda：So, Zi Pei, to be frank, resigning from Alibaba, you made a significant decision. This decision actually affected your family. Your
wife chose to be a full-time wife from a good English teacher, looking after you and the children. Therefore, I still have to ask you: as an independent scholar, you can decide your study and research, but as a father and husband, as well as a vice president recognized by Mr. Jack Ma, if you were given a chance to make the decision again, would you still make the same decision?
Tu Zipei: Very good question, I accepted Alibaba’s offer and became the vice president of Alibaba Group, because, on the one hand, Alibaba’s e-commerce platform is a huge driving force for various industries. On the other hand, my international vision and big data professional ability can be fully displayed on this platform.
Although I didn’t stay in Alibaba for a long time, I visited many places in the country to understand the current situation of local governments and business partners, and explore how to use Alibaba Cloud resources to support the public sector and government construction. I have gained a lot from Alibaba’s platform. However, Alibaba is a commercial organization after all, and each company has its own business agenda and pace of advancement. The more I research into the development of the local big data industry, the more I feel that there is more development space outside Alibaba. You just asked me if I felt regret about this decision. My answer is no. I am constantly looking forward, and I am still expecting a greater chance of making different decisions for my life. Suppose I was still in Alibaba, then this third book would not be like this. Only when I don’t belong to any company can I freely express my own opinions and feelings.
Linda：Can we say that independent scholars should not serve a certain company or institution?
Tu Zipei: I feel that if I want to do more, I must belong to society, not to a certain company or organization. Many young people want to work for big companies. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. But the young people who could make the greatest achievements in this era will not appear in big companies. You can go to a big company to learn, but you should not enjoy its achievements and glory. You should create them by yourself.
When I was working in Alibaba, many people came to visit me, and after dinner, they would naturally talk about Alibaba and Jack Ma. They wanted to know Jack through me. As this kind of dinner become more frequent, I realized that Jack is busy; even if you know him now, how much value can it bring to you? Even Einstein could not find a job before publishing the theory of relativity. He worked in the patent office through the recommendation of a friend. That is to say, society does not recognize a person’s value before he or she succeeds. In the process of pursuing success, the society denies him again and again, and he is constantly being tested. In the end you will find a true self. The more times a person is denied in his growth, the more he will be changed. If you are still the same as yesterday or last year, what progress have you made in your life? So we need to learn self-denial.
Coming back to Jack Ma, the most important thing for a person is not to know Jack Ma now, nor to have a meal with him. I don’t think this is something young people should do. What they should do is to find out if there is any Jack Ma around them and if so, work hard with them to create success. My advice for young people is to grow together with the company and their peers. The best career choice is to find a team and company that can grow together. Even a successful company like Alibaba continues to grow, and faces new problems and challenges. These also challenge Jack Ma, and require a different way of thinking. Instead of thinking how to start a business, he now needs a new way of thinking about how to run Alibaba. Life is in fact constantly evolving.
Linda：You talked about the issues of the team and the company. I visited your company today. It was established in the second half of last
year. I was shocked when I saw it. I founded Linda Liu & Partners in 2003, so I know that when the company just started, there are great difficulties in staffing and cash flow, especially in today’s era, it’s more difficult than in 2003 as the cost is also much higher.
Speaking of the foundation of team and company, I heard that you had a nickname of Peigong in Alibaba, tell us the story of it!
Tu Zipei: Everyone in Alibaba has a nickname.
Linda：What’s Jack Ma’s nickname?
Tu Zipei: Feng Qingyang, a master from a martial arts fiction of Jin Yong, and I like it. Jack tries to break the barriers of Chinese culture, since Chinese employees often call him “boss”. But Alibaba encourages people not to call a person “boss” but his or her nickname, which is a form of resistance to, and elimination of, the negative effect on innovation posed by traditional Chinese culture.
The nicknames of Alibaba’s employees come from history and novels. I was employee No. 88,000 in Alibaba. Everyone in Alibaba, whether they left or stayed, leaves a nickname in the history of Alibaba. Mine comes from a historical figure, Liu Bang - Emperor Gaozu of Han.
Linda：Here, I may have to touch a sore spot. We mentioned Jack Ma for several times in our conversation. Alibaba gave you so much
feelings and emotions, and you cherish that period of time. Alibaba is an attractive and interesting company.
Then Zipei, we all have feelings for Alibaba, even though you left there, but still hope that Alibaba will be better and better. And I, as your good friend, also hope that your own company can do better. We sometimes look at a company that we seem unable to touch, hoping it is developing well, moving forward steadily, exerting more influence on our society, and making greater contributions to the country. However, we personally still have to focus on our own development, because we have tasks that we should accomplish. Be a good parent of your child, then be the leader of your employees. In this process, you just talked about the issue of growth. In the end, people still need to growth up independently and complete their own reflections.
So, extending to the next topic, I want to know if you have different feelings about independent growth if you look back.
Tu Zipei: I wrote a letter to Jack at the time. When I left the company, I still had some little emotion. I thought that the company should bear part of the responsibility for my resignation. But then I realized that those closely involved cannot see clearly, and I should jump out. When making major decisions, we must get out and stand at a distance, in the sky. If I was not myself but a bystander, how graceful he could be when things happen.
So, the higher you stand, the further you will see. Every time you make a decision, you should stand higher so that you can look further. Don’t be controlled by your emotions.
Linda：Today I have benefited from this conversation. You make us reassured that you will go further in the future. It is difficult for
scholars to look at themselves calmly, but today, you can stand in the air and pretend you are not involved to keep calm and objective. This is what I should learn from you.
I hope that friends in the IP industry will pay more attention to these three books, and that these three books will be liked by more foreign readers.
Lastly, we are pleased to announce that Linda Liu & Partners and Data Civilization Science & Technology Co., Ltd have reached a strategic partnership, hoping to use the new technology of big data to inject new vitality into the development of the intellectual property industry.
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