Forbes Asia November 2020

Forbes Asia chronicles entrepreneurs, executives and companies throughout Asia.

United States
Forbes Media LLC
13 Issues

in this issue

2 min

This month’s issue features two lists: our annual list of the region’s notable philanthropists—featuring 15 listees—and China’s 100 Richest list (which is extended to 400 richest online). At first glance, the two lists may not appear to have much in common. Yet, on closer inspection, it can be seen that the global pandemic creates a link between them. First China, as the pandemic started there and swept around the world. China, due to stringent lockdown measures, now appears to be containing Covid-19, allowing the country to reopen and the economy to rebound. The fortunes of many of China’s richest reflect the country’s growth prospects. The collective wealth of the 400 listees is up sharply, gaining 64% to $2.11 trillion. Those providing goods and services that were in demand during the pandemic were…

8 min
hot spots that could burn u.s.

While we are focused on a possible new wave of Covid-19 cases and the upcoming elections, other crises are brewing that could have an outsize—and adverse—impact on the U. Two big ones are a possible conflict between Turkey and Greece—whose enmity goes back centuries—and trouble in the underappreciated and underreported country of Belarus, which had been part of the old Soviet Union but became a separate nation when the Soviet empire collapsed in 1991. Both Turkey and Greece are increasingly at odds over drilling rights for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Greece, which has numerous islands in the area, says it has sovereignty over the particular waters that hold considerable drilling promise. Turkey is disputing this claim and recently sent a seismic vessel, backed up by warships, to carry…

6 min
ai: accelerated innovation

Any credible list of influential books about tech from the last decade would include AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee. Considered the world’s foremost authority on artificial intelligence, Taipei-born Lee got an early start, writing a pioneering speech-recognition program while a student at Carnegie Mellon in the 1980s. He later had a career in China and the U.S. at Apple, Microsoft, Silicon Graphics and Google, where he was president of Google China. Now based in Beijing, Lee runs a venture capital firm called Sinovation, which focuses on AI investments. The interview with Lee took place (virtually) in early October. Forbes Asia: AI Superpowers made you a global business star. Why did you write the book? Kai-Fu Lee: China has—thanks to data, AI, and the entrepreneur…

3 min
paperless billionaire

The centuries-old Japanese tradition of stamping documents with seals—or hanko—instead of signatures is rapidly succumbing to the need to work from home, leading even storied corporate giants such as Nomura and Toyota to call on a little-known company called to help make the leap to electronic signatures. According to, its CloudSign is the dominant e-signature service in Japan, with an 80% market share (by corporate users). More than 100,000 companies use CloudSign, up from less than 50,000 a year ago, according to the company. “CloudSign is changing the traditional hanko culture,” says company founder Taichiro Motoe, 44, in a mid-September video interview with Forbes Asia, his first with international media. Demand for CloudSign driven by the pandemic has sent’s stock soaring more than 125% this year, turning Motoe into…

5 min
the remote-work absolutist

Sid Sijbrandij knows the perils of working from home. In 2018, after years of toiling exclusively from a small room in his 47th-floor apartment in a San Francisco high-rise, the entrepreneur developed foot problems. So he moved in a treadmill desk alongside his Zoom-friendly green screen and three monitors. GitLab’s CEO says the problem isn’t remote work, but how it’s practiced. Unless you’re employed by one of the handful of companies that have fully embraced the new work reality, Sijbrandij (pronounced see brandy) thinks you’re probably doing it wrong. His radical take on remote work: It’s effective only if you go all in. Partial measures will create tiers of employees who will split the workforce over time, driving away top-performing remote workers who don’t want to compete with lesser-achieving on-site colleagues.…

11 min
paving the way

For our 14th annual philanthropy roundup, we sifted through dozens of candidates to compile a list of 15 altruists committed to issues facing the Asia-Pacific. Some of the biggest donors this year were tied to the Covid-19 pandemic. Several were prompted to build hospitals, provide protective equipment or fund medical research. Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, for example, channeled HK$250 million ($32 million) into various forms of aid through his foundation, including HK$100 million to communities in Wuhan—the epicenter of the outbreak in China. Fast Retailing chief Tadashi Yanai gave ¥11.2 billion ($105 million) to two universities in Japan, to facilitate research on diseases and to develop vaccines for the virus. But pandemic relief wasn’t the only focus this year. Other honorees dedicated themselves to causes such as the arts and education.…