Weekend Briefing No. 193
Welcome to the weekend. I wanted to open with a huge thank you! Thanks to your collective efforts – we now have more than 20,000 subscribers! It’s a huge milestone. Thanks so much for sharing the WB with your friends!
Hello from Beijing, China, a fascinating place. I’m learning so much that I want to share with you, so this briefing may be a little China-heavy. I hope you find it insightful. If you want to follow along with my journey through China for the next few weeks, follow me on Instagram @kylewestaway.
2,3000 - The National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is China’s most important political event, held twice every decade. The 19th Congress kicked off on Wednesday, and is expected to last for a week. Around 2,300 party members from across the country will attend the meeting in Beijing to select the party’s top leadership for the next five years.
102 – China, the world’s most populous country, now boasts 102 cities with populations of more than 1 million people, many of which are little known outside the country – or even within its borders. To put that in perspective, the US has 10.
3 – President Xi Jinping’s opening speech this week was 3+ hours long. It was so long that he was served tea by a waiter impeccably dressed in black tie.
“Taking a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization,” said president Xi Jinping. Xi’s remarks came as the country has increasingly focused on shifting from relying on fossil fuels to reducing its deadly air pollution and coal overcapacity problems at home. But China has also realized that these efforts allow it to command greater respect on the world stage, particularly as the US, under president Trump, has made it clear it isn’t interested in playing a leadership role on safeguarding the environment. Under the Paris accord, China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 60% to 65% per unit of GDP by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Quartz (5 minutes)
The amount of growth China has seen in my lifetime is staggering. Prior to the initiation of economic reforms and trade liberalization in 1979, the year I was born, China maintained policies that kept the economy very poor, stagnant, centrally-controlled, vastly inefficient, and relatively isolated from the global economy. Since opening up to foreign trade and investment and implementing free market reforms in 1979, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, with real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging nearly 10% through 2016. In recent years, China has emerged as a major global economic power. It is now the world’s largest economy (on a purchasing power parity basis), manufacturer, merchandise trader, and holder of foreign exchange reserves. Congressional Research Service (32 minutes)
More than a billion people lack access to health care because they live too far from a clinic. Raj Panjabi, 2017 TED Prize winner and Skoll award recipient, has been working to solve that. His organization, Last Mile Health, aims to reinvent education for community health workers through Last Mile Health. Last Mile Health worked with Whiteboard, a digital design agency, to lead a refresh of their brand, design and build their website and the announcement for the Community Health Academy at TED. Learn more about the Community Health Academy and watch Raj’s TED Talk at Last Mile (Sponsored Briefing)
WeChat, the Chinese WhatsApp, is ubiquitous here boasting 889 MM monthly active users, 50% of users spend at least 90 minutes per day on the app, and 93% of people living in Tier 1 cities in China have an account. The functionality is simple – instead of typing in somebody’s phone number, you just scan your unique QR code. WeChat Pay is the hugely popular payment platform tied into the app for both online and offline retail. I’m often the only person at the bar who is going through the antiquated process of swiping a card and signing. With WeChat Pay, it’s just a quick scan of QR code and the payment is processed. DMR (6 minutes)
The Mighty Have Fallen
AlphaGo, the notorious AI program that beat the best Go player in the world, has officially been defeated, not by a human but by better AI called AlphaGo Zero. In a head-to-head matchup, AlphaGo Zero defeated the original program by 100 games to none. What’s really cool is how AlphaGo Zero did it. Whereas the original AlphaGo learned by ingesting data from hundreds of thousands of games played by human experts, AlphaGo Zero, also developed by the Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind, started with nothing but a blank board and the rules of the game. It learned simply by playing millions of games against itself, using what it learned in each game to improve. The new program represents a step forward in the quest to build machines that are truly intelligent. That’s because machines will need to figure out solutions to difficult problems even when there isn’t a large amount of training data to learn from. MIT Technology Review (7 minutes)
Timeline of the Far Future
Timeline of the far future is an infographic detailing what might happen to humanity, human artifacts, the Earth, the solar system, in the far future. For instance, in… 20,000 years: The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the 1,000 square mile area of Ukraine and Belarus left deserted by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, becomes safe for human life. 1 million years: On the Moon, Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step’ footprint at Tranquility Base will erode by this time, along with those left by all twelve Apollo moonwalkers, due to the accumulated effects of space weathering. 100 million years: Future archaeologists should be able to identify an ‘Urban Stratum’ of fossilized great coastal cities, mostly through the remains of underground infrastructure such as building foundations and utility tunnels. Kottke (5 minutes)
Most Adventurous Countries
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the best countries for adventure, based on each country’s score across five attributes: ‘fun’, ‘friendliness’, ‘climate’, ‘scenery’, and ‘sexy’ – a term that the report characterized as anything from erotic to appealing to an ineffable je ne sais quoi. Here are the top 5: 1) Brazil - With a perfect 10 on both the ‘fun’ and ‘sexy’ scores, Brazil bursts with an infectious energy that comes from locals who love their heritage. As for adventure, the country’s sprawling landmass (the fifth largest country in the world by area), makes it easy to explore vastly varying landscapes in different ways. You can go from surfing the Pororoca on the Amazon River, to resting on a Caribbean-like beach in Fernando de Noronha, islands off the eastern coast. 2) Italy, 3) Spain, 4) Thailand and 5) Greece. US News & World Report (11 minutes)
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About the Weekend Briefing
The best articles on innovation, impact and growth distilled into one email every Saturday morning by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.
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