ChinAI #36: The Tragedy of Ofo and its leader Dai Wei

Welcome to the ChinAI Newsletter!

These are Jeff Ding's weekly translations of writings on AI policy and strategy from Chinese thinkers. I'll also include general links to all things at the intersection of China and AI. Please share the subscription link if you think this stuff is cool. Here's an archive of all past issues. *Subscribers are welcome to share excerpts from these translations as long as my original translation is cited.

I'm a grad student at the University of Oxford where I'm the China lead for the Governance of AI Program, Future of Humanity Institute.

The Tragedy of Ofo: Why Couldn’t Dai Wei Become the Big Boss?

A lighter interlude this week, focused on Ofo — one of China’s leading bike-sharing startups (the yellow bikes), who has recently pulled back a lot of its overseas operations and is rumored to be in serious financial trouble. Recently, Ofo’s founder, Dai Wei (the subject of this profile piece) was replaced as the company’s representative amid a rash of lawsuits.

It’s a compelling profile about a compelling leader but it also gives a deeper look into China’s startup scene: recent college grads in charge of unicorns, the delicate relationship between startups and investors, pressures to merge in these cash-burning, knockdown fights with competitors. Read the full translation linked below:

FULL TRANSLATION: The Tragedy of Ofo: Why Couldn’t Dai Wei Become the Big Boss?

This Week's ChinAI Links

Chinese phrase of the Week: 阿Q式的自我激励(a1Qshi4 de zi4wo3ji1li4): Ah Q-style self-motivation, which references “The True Story of Ah Q,” a novella written by Lu Xun. Ah Q is known for "spiritual victories" and is able to build himself up/deceive himself as being strong even when facing extreme humiliation/defeat. Published in 1921, Lu Xun uses Ah Q as a critique of China's national character at the time.

Good data-packed analysis of China’s tech unicorns by Nikkei Asian Review and how their area of focus differs based on four cities of concentration.

Must-read longform article by Atul Gawande for the New Yorker on how digitization may be coming between doctors and patients - a balanced view between techno-pessimism and techno-optimism.

Great translation by Elsa Kania and Rogier Creemers on a Xi Jinping-led Politburo study session that emphasized the continued importance of AI in China’s development and governance goals.

Above translation was part of New America’s DigiChina initiative which also has a monthly digest that tracks content from Chinese-language sources on digital policy in China.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

Shout out to everyone who is commenting on the translations - idea is to build up a community of people interested in this stuff. You can contact me at jeffrey.ding@magd.ox.ac.uk or on Twitter at @jjding99