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Face of Chinese IT industry doesn't please everyone at German trade show

Peter Sayer | March 17, 2015
Feted during the opening ceremony, Ma would have been jeered on Monday morning had he been among the first through the gates.

Buying works of art like that over the Web can still be a laborious process, but Ma used his opening speech to showcase a way in which his company's online payment subsidiary, Alipay, hopes to simplify things using face recognition rather than a password or fingerprint to authorize payments. Unlike fingerprint recognition, face recognition requires no special hardware: Most smartphones already have the necessary front camera. Ma just had to look at his phone to confirm the purchase of a souvenir postage stamp from Hanover as a gift for the town's lord mayor. "In six days this stamp will be delivered to the mayor's office," he said.

Alibaba isn't the only Chinese company at the show, of course. Alongside telecommunications industry giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE in the Chinese national pavilion, it is merely among the most visible. Nearby are TCL, exhibiting a 110-inch, curved-screen 4K TV and the somewhat smaller Alcatel Onetouch smartphones it also manufacturers, and InSpur, a server manufacturer which boasts it supplies the majority of servers used by Alibaba and by Chinese search engine Baidu in their data centers.

Plenty of others are trying their luck, as Ma did 14 years ago: A glance at the show catalog under "Ch", "Sh" or "Zh" reveals dozens of Chinese companies selling cables, capacitors and chips in the far-flung Hall 13, devoted to networking and communications, and the backwater "Global Sourcing Area" in Halls 15 through 17.

 

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