Tencent’s clubbable guy
Oct 19, 2018 (WiC 428)

China has form when it comes to its business leaders scaling the heights of achievement in areas unrelated to their day jobs. Wang Shi, for instance, took time out from running real estate giant Vanke to climb Mount Everest (twice).

Step forward Zhang Xiaolong the Tencent engineer famed throughout China for creating the ubiquitous social media app WeChat. About seven years ago he switched hobbies from tennis to golf – and decided he wanted to be as good at swinging an iron as he is at coding software. That goal looks to have been realised this month when he won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

The title he won was one of the two most prestigious Pro-Am tournaments (the other being at America’s Pebble Beach) alongside professional golfer Li Haotong. Not only was it the first time a Chinese duo had won the Alfred Dunhill prize, Zhang sunk the winning putt. The tournament creates a composite score from the best shots of each player, played over four days and ending at the fabled St Andrews Old Course. Li shot a 10 under par 66, while their composite score was 35 under, suggesting Tencent’s Zhang did most of the heavy lifting when it came to accumulating birdies and eagles. Both men said the key to winning the European Tour event was a hotpot meal they ate at the Fairmont Hotel the night before the final round. The next day they shot 11 under par. WiC advises the Fairmont to stock up on mutton, as it can expect a lot of visiting Chinese golfers to emulate Zhang’s choice of meal…

To be or not to be? A Tudor Fuzhou
Oct 5, 2018 (WiC 427)

Is this a replica I see before me? It’s a question that needs to be asked in China, where WiC has profiled some controversial cases of construction copycats (not least when the 923 residents of the idyllic Austrian village of Hallstatt discovered they had a doppelganger in somewhat less lovely Huizhou).

Now Fuzhou wants to get in on the act with its own bit of Shakespearean England. The city in Jiangxi has reached a deal with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to build “the world’s first recreation of the two houses where the English playwright was born, lived and died”, the Financial Times reports.

The trust says that it will be paid a fee by Fuzhou but will insist that the project looks authentic (a particular concern after a Chinese version of Tower Bridge improved on the original landmark by building four towers rather than two).

The construction will be part of a new town called San Weng, which will welcome its first residents in 2020. However, as the FT points out, the Bard’s dwellings won’t be easy to duplicate. One of the houses – the one where Shakespeare died – was knocked down in 1702 and will have to be created from plans held by the trust and historical records from Stratford-upon-Avon, the city of his birth.

War of words
Sep 28, 2018 (WiC 426)

One of China’s leading exponents of voice recognition was caught in the crossfire this week when a man said it was passing off his work as AI-based machine translation.

The trouble began when a Japanese professor spoke in English at an AI conference in Shanghai. A screen behind him showed a simultaneous translation into Chinese that was credited to iFlytek, a specialist in speech recognition technology. The conference was also broadcast online, with the translated material conveyed in a synthesised voice.

The following day an interpreter called Bell Wang said iFlytek was implying that the translation was made directly by machine, when it was actually transcribed from work he and a colleague did. “It was an outright lie,” he fumed. “The day may come when AI can actually understand natural languages and we lose our jobs, but it’s definitely not now.”

iFlytek later agreed to credit the interpreters in future transcriptions. But it also put out a statement denying that it had tried to present human interpreting as the work of its AI engine.