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YC China and Qi Lu (ycombinator.com)
351 points by sama 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 345 comments

I find it funny how YC is focusing only on places where the majority of the world won’t or can’t easily work (US visa policy is atrocious and getting worse every year + raising xenophobia in recent times) and China isn’t an easy country to navigate if you don’t speak Mandarin, let alone succeed in as a foreigner (for a variety of reasons). Asia and Europe are big places as are Canada and Australia. Time to think broader than just US+China!

1. It's not about empowering everyone on the planet, it's about creating companies which become billion dollar unicorns

2. The probability of Unicornism is directly related to the size of the market you can access. US is the biggest single market on the planet.

3. Accessibility of markets: While EU is the second largest single market [0] US companies have entered european markets just fine. On the other hand, to operate in china, it's best to be a chinese company. Hence, to fund growth on a global scale going native in china is an obvious move.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_countries...

> US is the biggest single market on the planet.

By which measure? China has nearly five times as many inhabitants, the biggest economic growth over the past three decades of any country, and out-produces the US by over nine thousand. If it's not yet the biggest market on the planet yet, it soon will be.

It will be, sure, but it's not there. Also the markets are very different - the Chinese government is much more likely to take an active role in the governing of large companies.

China may become richer but it will have to deal with the effects of a very fast aging population as well which will impede its economy as well.

By monetary measure.

China is a lot bigger market than the US. EU is slightly bigger. US is third. Maybe with extended markets (e.g. Central America and Canada for US, Eastern Europe for EU, Belt and Road area for China, US is number two). You need to consider several factors, like number of people, as well.

A big problem for the US is that it is a litle off, while most other social/cultural areas are closely connected. For instance, China and Russia might be almost as close allies as the pre-Trump US and Europe. But because Russia and Europe are so close, in fact the business dependencies between both are quite high as well. So a lot of business happens in that exchange, with high values due to the political risks. Since the US lacks such interdependencies with close neighbors it can survive better in a time like WW2 but it is harder in a long peace time like we currently have.

Nominal GDP is used to measure country market sizes, sorry.

First google result already says different: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/market-size.htm...

I woud assume it's not a term like "revenue" but more a general word. It's also not smart for your own analysis to assume a single value for it. If you write a business case for instance, it's quite smart to summarize how you size the market for your product/service as well.

"China and Russia might be almost as close allies as the pre-Trump US and Europe. "

That completely underestimates the cultural ties US and 'Europe' has and overestimates the co-operation between parties who co-operate pragmatically from time to time but really can't trust or understand each other.

" US lacks such interdependencies with close neighbors it can survive better in a time like WW2 but it is harder in a long peace time like we currently have."

That's some extremely peculiar economic calculus.

Are you sure nominal GDP is the right metric to be using to compare market size? By adjusted (PPP) GDP it's China, EU and then the US. Those billions can go a lot further in China and the EU than they can in the US.


As a complete economist noob this is my understanding: When discussing huge investements, the cost of goods and services does not really matter, but what matters is that what is the expected profit margin from the investment and at what risk.

From this point of view dollars do equal the estimated size, not how much commodities or services you can buy with it.

Someone with more experience can comment hopefully on this.

You want money in nominal terms, so PPP doesn't matter. EU is not really a single market, they have unified regulations, which is helpful, but at the very least language differences mean you're doing custom work for every country.

> EU is not really a single market, they have unified regulations, which is helpful

The EU doesn't really have unified regulations. I mean, regulations passed at the EU level are unified, but countries have a great degree of country-specific regulations themselves.

Now, technically states within the US have the ability to regulate things at the state level, but due to various aspects of Constitutional law (the Commerce Clause, and case law such as the Sherman Antitrust Act, etc.), there are far fewer state-specific regulations that companies have to worry about for interstate commerce within the US than international commerce within the EU. Unless you're dealing with very specific regulated industries (money transmission, health insurance, etc.), you generally don't have to worry about a lot for basic interstate commerce in the US.

Yes, if you want the most money, you want the highest nominal number.

Something to consider as well, is there is fairly wide spread consensus that China's GDP is significantly artificially inflated.

Mandarin isn't strictly necessary to live in China. Plenty of my laowai colleagues only knew a few words and got along just fine in a tier one Beijing, which admittedly is a bit behind Shanghai and Shenzhen.

The only thing that really drove us out was the pollution (a huge problem in Beijing that is supposedly finally getting better).

Given the US visa policy, as bad as it is, still attracts far more many foreigners than China, at least. More than most countries actually even by per capita measures.

> Mandarin isn't strictly necessary to live in China

Basic question: what do you do in China for browsing, emails and maps? I suppose Google doesn't work there and all the local services would be in Mandarin, no? When I travel I use Google search, emails, maps extensively but I have no clue what would I do in China. Also FB and Twitter also likely won't be accessible. So how do I even keep touch with folks outside China, especially if I don't know Mandarin?

Many foreigners have VPNs, but many do not. They aren't the easiest thing to set up, and they often close shop a few weeks after you pay a yearly subscription fee.

Email: I use outlook.com, but I shut my gmail account long before gmail was blocked. I'm weird.

maps: Apple Maps on an iphone works well enough. Not sure if gmaps on Android works or not. Many Google services still work even if a few are blocked.

Browsing: many websites work in China, but I also had full internet access at work for when I needed it, so Facebooking family was easy enough, I just didn't use it at night when I was at home...I didn't miss it.

Its definitely isolating, but not incredibly so. If you are addicted to social media, this can even help you become unaddicted, weird therapy for sure :)

Is VPN legal? What are English options for maps with transit available without vpn?

Apple maps works perfectly fine in China. I’m not sure what it’s like for android users.

It includes transit, at least for Beijing, see https://www.apple.com/ios/feature-availability/. I always took a taxi though so that wasn’t very important to me, so I used mostly the didi dache app.

For crying out loud, even using github based services like 'go get' or homebrew without proxies is a real pain in the arse, stop defending your 'it's not that bad' view cos it is.

Please don't cross into flamewar mode. We're trying to avoid that here.


Get a SIM card from Project Fi (by Google), which auto-VPN's for you, and you can use everything (FB, Twitter, etc.) you're used to using. Bring a Chromebook and use your phone to provide Internet for your Chromebook.

Install Didi so you can hail a ride. Install WeChat and some of the mini apps so that you can order Starbucks without waiting in line. Since you probably don't have a Chinese bank account, find a local (possibly even a hotel concierge) who is willing to take cash from you and send you some RMB into your WeChat account so you can pay vendors, including restaurant bills, train tickets, farmer's markets, and the guy on the street corner selling oranges.

Pretty straight forward.

I spent a couple hours setting up an OpenVPN server on AWS EC2 nano instance so it's going to be completely free for the first year. Speed is not great but enough to watch HD youtube videos, etc. I know have unrestricted internet on both my phone and macbook.

Follow this tutorial: https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/how-to-make-you...

For a long while shadowsocks/shadowsocksr (the latter being more actively developed) has been preferred way to bypass the GFW although what works is constantly changing. This was an interesting write up passed a couple years ago where a dev tries out various methods for bypass on a China trip: http://blog.zorinaq.com/my-experience-with-the-great-firewal...

I'm moving to China in a week for graduate school and have been asking myself many of these questions :)

In past trips to China, VPN services--specially Express VPN--allowed me to easily bypass the Great Firewall. That unlocks Twitter, FB, Google services, etc.

That being said, many services don't have a great experience in China. For example, Google Maps doesn't offer public transit or driving instructions. In these cases, using the chinese-based app (Du Maps) is just far better.

Some options:

>> ExpressVPN worked well on windows, although flakey for me on Android.

>> Set up ShadowSocks on a server outside China.

>> Buy a SIM card in Hong Kong, they apparently maintain their unrestricted internet access even in the mainland.

VPN or V2RAY etc. Fix that issue. It's still excruciatingly slow tho.

to live in China, one could get by with little to no mandarin; but to do business in China, mandarin is a must.

Even that depends. A (young educated) Chinese can speak better English than a Laowai could probably ever speak Chinese. Plenty of foreigners work exec positions in Chinese companies with only very basic mandarin.

But that's the thing, they need basic mandarin! Which is no easy task for sure.

Anyone can learn how to say 你好are you? But seriously, getting basic taxi cab mandarin down in 6 months is pretty easy. Heck, when I did it it was much harder since real beijingers back then had thick 儿 accents.

You definitely don't need 大山-level mandarin to do business in china these days.

Yeah but it's still not honest to say you don't need to learn Chinese at all. I would say that you will need atleast 6 months to be able to live normally, 12 months to get respect in business meetings, 3-4 years to be understood and make it a comp. advantage.And I'm not talking about 上海。

I'm always shocked when I visit shanghai and the taxi drivers can actually speak English. Nothing like that ever happens in Beijing.

Plenty of foreigners work in China having much less than 6 months of Chinese. Most of them weren't even at my level. They still got by. Business meetings held with foreigners are usually in English anyways, it is only the old guard (Xi's generation) that can't English very well. And those people aren't so common in tech.

My winning combination for China: Google Fi (unrestricted access to real Internet), Google Translate, Didi. Most places have pictures for food so I just play the pointing game, but it would be difficult if you were a picky eater.

After seeing Mark Zuckerberg's "Chinese ability" I have less respect for him than before. I don't think 12 months cuts it. Maybe gives you a cute factor, yes. I would think respect is independent of language ability, unless you are taking language ability as your main selling point as a person. I'm sure Bill Gates is both respected in China, and effective, whether he speaks any Chinese or not. It all depends on the circumstances.

Considering that there are over 300 million, yes million, people in China who do not speak Mandarin, I'd say yes one could get by. I'd even venture to say many of these 300 million people also do business in China. But yeah, I know what you meant.

> Considering that there are over 300 million, yes million, people in China who do not speak Mandarin

I don't think your numbers are right. Tibet has 4 million population. Xinjiang has 20 million, among which 50% are Han. Those are only 2 provinces where I can think of that doesn't require Mandarin to get by in certain area.

The rest of China, at least, could understand Mandarin without problems.

You're just going by intuition, which can be misleading.

Guangdong province alone is 100 million people. Some of whom are Mandarin speakers (1st or 2nd or 2nd+ language). But many are not, not even as 2nd or 2nd+ language speakers. And their predominant language is Cantonese. Many people grew up before mandatory Mandarin education was instituted. There's a similar situation in other huge provinces all around China, especially southern China.

I would say assuming people from Guangdong province, and majority of them don't speak Mandarin is an exaggeration to great extent. Of course they do, it is imperfect with heavy accent. But I won't go that far claiming they don't speak Mandarin, as if saying all English speakers in India don't count, that is just hilarious.

I never made any such claims. This kind of poor quality conversation is not worth engaging in.

It is definitely your claim about the 300 million Chinese that they don't speak Mandarin, that is why the whole conversation happens. Otherwise, it won't add up, even assume majority of Guangdong province don't speak Mandarin at all.

Tibetan parts of Sichuan have many non-mandarin speakers, though these are technically a part of greater Tibet anyways.

If you mean that these 300 million do not have Chinese as the first language https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_China then it would be correct. But every kid growing up in China has to learn Chinese in school (plus TV etc).

Wrong. A lot of people grew up before this started. And no, I removed the Mandarin-as-an-additional-language people from the number already. (Mandarin 1st + Mandarin as a 2nd or 3rd languages speakers) = 1.1 billion. Population of China, 1.4 billion. 1.4 billion minus 1.1 billion is 300 million.

I’ve run into old people in China who don’t speak a word of mandarin, especially in Tibetan areas. They get the kids to translate for them.

I think compared to pollution, political situation and education is more concerned.

We fund startups all around the world! In the rare cases where a founder is unable to get a US visa for the duration of our program, we are open to doing something remote. We offer a lot of help figuring out the US visa system, which is in my opinion extremely sub-optimal. I believe talent is equally distributed in the world, and the US should want as many talented founders to come create businesses here as possible.

China is an especially interesting market to us given the quality of companies and entrepreneurs we see there.

It should be easy to see, China and US are where money are. There is advantage to have a local branch there. YC is a venture capital, don't pretend it is something else.

It’s not hard to understand if you just take a look at stats in the past few years on where recent startups are founded, and where VC money goes.

Language barrier is not an issue for YC - they can just hire mandarin speakers like Lu Qi. I’m sure YC China would get mostly Chinese employees.

I think YC China would mainly help local tech talents to launch startups with a focus on China's markets first. If you look at how many tech startups are located in Beijing (some of them are tier-one companies: Tusimple, uisee, bytedance, mobvoi, megvii, just to name a few), you would know that they have made the right choice.

The political concerns are real. It's too cynical to say that YC just cares about money, though. There would be better ways to create an incubator than to do it like this, if that were the case. One obvious question that hasn't been raised is: "Why not base it in Taiwan?" It's still "China" (for some definition of China), you can still get access to the talent that you want (you just have to try a little harder), and you could still get access to the market you're targeting.

It's not going to be easy, but it would better address the political and humanitarian issues raised.

It's definitely an area where we will have to tread carefully, and the concerns are for sure real. It was important to us to find an extremely ethically aligned leader.

However, I think it's easy to fall into a trap of assuming that everything about China (or any other culture) is worse just because it's different. My experience in China, and talking to Chinese people about their experiences in China, has been very different than what I assumed it would be.

Taiwan is not "China" for reasonable and informed definitions of China. Independent of that, to the best of my understanding:

(1) The talent pools in Taiwan and China are different

(2) The markets in Taiwan and China are very different

Right now the Chinese market is more important than the Chinese talent pool, but both are important. Basing an accelerator in Taiwan would be good for Taiwan, but it would not meaningfully engage with the Chinese market or talent pool. It's too late in the game for that.

Even if YC's ultimately goal were political and humanitarian it would still be more effective to base the accelerator in China and use the additional leverage gained from being in China to better pursue those goals.

Disclosure: I am an American currently living in Taiwan. (edits: grammar)

The PRC says that Formosa (i.e Taiwan) is part of China. That's why I added the caveat (for some definition of China). There are political definitions, cultural definitions, linguistic/anthropological definitions. So, my statement still stands that Taiwan is a kind of China, depending on how you understand that word.

It's clear that you're speaking from a political perspective, but even that gets a bit grey.

Since you don't live in China, you should know that there are hundreds of different versions of China within China itself. You could live in Shanghai and never know the reality of the China that the people of Xinjiang experience. So I would say to your points that:

1) The markets all over China are very different. 2) The talent pools all over China are very different.

If YC wants to call it YC Shangjing, (because they're primarily targeting those two markets), that would be fair. But considering China just to be Shanghai and Beijing is a bit myopic, which is why I suggested Taiwan in the first place.

Disclosure: I am a Chinese-American currently living in Northwest China, which is VERY different than Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Linxia, Shenyang, etc. all of which I've visited.

> Taiwan is not "China" for reasonable and informed definitions of China.

Taiwan is literally the Republic of China. The leadership is descended from the same people who overcame the Japanese. Pretending the Communist Party has a monopoly on the word 'China' is uninformed and unreasonable.

Off topic, a better compromise would have been Hong Kong, inside the PRC with some degree of democracy, though less than originally promised in 1997.

You are not wrong that Taiwan is part of China according to official definition (from both PRC and Taiwanese gov).

However, "Taiwan is literally the Republic of China." is disingenuous considering that their government is not the one that sits in the United Nations.

I don't want to get involved in politics. But I have to point out "Taiwan is literally the Republic of China." is 100% correct. The official name of Taiwan is Republic of China (ROC). On the cover of Taiwan passport, you can only see Republic of China. The interesting thing is the claimed territory of Republic of China includes the China mainland and Mongolia, not just Taiwan island. The official name of China mainland is People's Republic of China (PRC), literally same to Republic of China (ROC). It's too complex for western people to understand. Just refer them as China and Taiwan.

I am from China mainland, having friends and colleagues from Taiwan. Don't want to see wars happen between PRC and ROC.

Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China. How is that disingenuous? They're not at the UN because the PRC is bigger than them and has nukes.

When people refer to China, they are referring to mainland China which is about the same size as the continental US, and not a small island about the size of Vermont. They are two different things because Taiwan based businesses do not have the same access to mainland China vs businesses based on the mainland. China's domestic market is pretty much a closed one.

We're in the realm of opinion, but my $0.02:

"China" is the name of a country. For historical reasons the "Republic of China" is one of the names of a different country, but having "China" in its name doesn't make it (a part of) China.

Most people call China "China" simply because China's current territory is closest to the China that existed before the Nationalist/Communist split. It's not a political statement. Two different countries needs two different names. Taiwan is for all intents and purposes a country but it can't declare itself one now because of military threat from China.

Yes, there are Taiwanese who want Taiwan to subjugate itself and become part of China. But all the young people I have talked to, excluding blindly patriotic Chinese, see Taiwan as Taiwan and China as China-- as two separate countries with their own economies, histories, cultures, and languages.

> "Why not base it in Taiwan?" It's still "China" (for some definition of China), you can still get access to the talent that you want (you just have to try a little harder), and you could still get access to the market you're targeting.

Native Chinese here. I don't think this is the case. It's not even close to ideal to base in Taiwan given the political environment between the straits nowadays. The policies are very unfriendly. Recruitment and market delivery is even more complicated than between foreign countries actually.

Adding onto this, in China you also have to deal with the Great Firewall as well

The apps used in Taiwan and China are significantly different. In China, its anything owned by tencent, baidu, or alibaba.

The app market in Taiwan uses mostly English offerings (google, facebook, instagram) with a combination of Asianic/Non-china based apps including Line, which is similar to Whatsapp or Wechat.

> Adding onto this, in China you also have to deal with the Great Firewall as well

Not you don't. For most of the Chinese entrepreneurs create startups inside China - their local market is big enough to not to have to worry about internationalization. The big three you named there, Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, didn't worry about that at all for many years sine their establishments.

> In China, its anything owned by tencent, baidu, or alibaba.

There are certain truth to it, but there are exceptions too. I.E. Douyin/Tik Tok(social vlogging) and Pinduoduo (e-commerce) have been immensely popular and successful in recent years and weren't owned (or significantly owned) by the big three.

well, ROC and PRC are for all intents and purposes foreign to each other... if not hostile

I agree with you. But I'm not suggesting that people develop business based on the location of YCombinator. YCombinator accepts applicants from all over the world who want to focus on specific issues that their home markets exhibit. Just the other day someone was promoting FinTech for South America.

In my OP I said it would be work. It would be more of a challenge for Mainland Chinese applicants to launch their businesses while not being in the Mainland, but if that was their biggest problem then they're prepped for success!

> and you could still get access to the market you're targeting.

This is not true. Taiwanese investment in China is considered 'external'. And Taiwan's talent reserve is no way to be considered as on par against mainland China. But that is not the point either, I think YC just wants an entity in China, not for the talents, but for the market. Under the risk of being downvoted, I have to say China has created some world class startups in the past decade, only second to US.

China has startups, they are definitely many high in quality, but they aren’t really world class in terms of talent used (almost completely Chinese) and markets targeted (ditto). China will have trouble getting its tech companies to compete abroad when they have closed off their own market so much. Likewise, until China embraces immigration rather than emigration, talent is unlikely to flock to China in any significant numbers.

Worldclass valuation maybe? Might be more controversial to say, but when it comes to internet, there is China and the rest of world, those are 2 disconnected system, quite literally. So I don't think YC China is priortized to create companies for the whole world, probably just companies that would operate mainly in China, built and run by the locals.

Yes, word class valuations for sure. There are many meanings of world class, but one of the popular ones is of global scope.

That's not 100% true. Amazon and (previously) ebay operate in china without problem but don't get a chance facing alibaba. Microsoft also do things fine. Uber was also there. The market that's really closed off are mostly limited to companies that don't support censorship.

Also speaking of world class, have you heard of DJI?

I did work for MS China for almost 10 years, and Microsoft does sell shrink wrap software in China, but they don't really do services there, they've tried and even though they are on the government's good side, it just never worked out for them. Microsoft is a good example of my claim.

Not trying to move the goalpost, but DJI is more of a hardware company, it isn't really an internet one. Any company that can operate outside of a services model will do just fine in China, since they are just shipping product for export.

How is MS a perfect example of your claim? It's proves even US company without much friction operating in China might not succeed. It had nothing to do with China closing off the market. Except the one really banned (google & fb etc), others just don't have a competitive product suitable for chinese market.

Also aren't we talking about tech company? Not internet company alone?

Or do you consider a market closed off if no foreign internet service company is doing well? In that standard US is also closed off because I can't think of a single successful non US internet company here.

China's internet market is closed off, not its hardware product one, so Intel still sells a lot of CPUs in China, while DJI sells plenty of drones outside of China and Xiaomi and Huawei even sell phones abroad like Apple can sell phones in China. If you count those as success and proof China is open, then that is definitely your prerogative.

But take the typical YC startup business models, most of those aren't going to be in those safe categories.

Azure Cloud is operating fine in China, so does Office365. Are these services?

Also AWS China is a huge deal.

You mean the one run by the Shanghai water company?

>Likewise, until China embraces immigration rather than emigration, talent is unlikely to flock to China in any significant numbers.

Isn't it the case already? In our company, the preference to host an overseas talent always goes to China's office for simplicity of immigration process. Secondary to that, I have to admit, is the significantly reduced chance of hostile talent poaching.

What was the reason you left China?

BTW. Ever crosses paths with Shanghai Bill of Slashdot fame?

1. There are almost as many foreigners in Tokyo as there is in China.

2. Most of us left because of the really really bad pollution. You can’t have kids breathing that.

3. I was based in Beijing, not Shanghai.

The only country had world-class Internet products are US companies.

This assumes that your talent pool is only local. If Chinese (i.e. 大陆) parents would be willing to send their kids all over the world for a university education, do you think it would be a big deal that a Shanghai team moved to Taiwan?

Some of my Taiwanese friends would choose to base their companies at either silicon valley or mainland China, while a lot of my bay area Chinese friends (and friends who received US grad school education) would choose to base their companies in mainland China. Taiwan doesn't really have the ideal startup environment.

> It's too cynical to say that YC just cares about money, though.

YC is not a NFP, it is a VC firm. It does indeed just care about money. Thinking otherwise is naive. Sure, YC wouldn't feed babies to lions to make money, but short of direct-- and that is the key word-- contribution to inhuman acts, everything else is fair game for Venture Capitalism.

I don't think it is too cynical to say that YC just cares about money, as it is not too cynical to say that all VCs and Wall St. financial firms just care about money - unless the VCs charter has some other purpose like social good clearly defined.

Moreover, here, it would have been OK if the political climate in China was improving, but it's not. In fact with Xi getting supreme power, it's worsening. So, with that in mind this does not send the proper message.

Having said that, YC is a private business, and from where I stand this is not PG/SL's YC, and I have no business projecting my ethics and morality on YC.

But, anyone supporting YC in here, should also not be critical of Google or any other company when they do business in China, nor should they be surprised when they hear of atrocities in Tibet, Uighur, Chinese police state etc.

As a Canadian looking from the side lines, I have to add that the US isn't doing much better with Donald Trump. I definitely feel that the US is the instigator for the current political cooldown.

> "Why not base it in Taiwan?"

Because the startups are simply not there. Why doesn’t US YC base in Puerto Rico

I don't think it's too cynical given this move at this point. They have willingly entered into a market where corporations are sponsored for their loyalty to the state, which has done horrendous humanitarian crimes, without which they could have succeeded economically just as well. Seems to me any semblance of a soul has been lost here in favor of pure VC profits.



China gets a score of 14/100 as opposed to Taiwan


which gets 93/100.

In my mind we should "Look for the Freedom label" and use this as a somewhat objective measure if we want to have free trade with free people.

Freedom house is a US government funded agency that gives better press to countries allied to the US. A better index is the Democracy Index by the Economist [1].


If they were against doing business in countries that have "done horrendous humanitarian crimes", they wouldn't have done business in the U.S.

China's actions seem horrendous from our perspective, but at least they are only operating within their own borders. How do you feel about the decades of war and destruction wreaked worldwide by our own government, including the bombing of schoolchildren just this week?

This is some serious whataboutism. Our government may have done horrible things, but that doesn't justify China's in any way either.

Taiwan was land that was forcibly colonized by the Han Chinese. The original inhabitants are Austronesian people [1]

I think a better move would be to move YC China to Vancouver, given the high density of rich Chinese expats in Vancouver, and its status of being in a liberal, western democracy. [2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwanese_indigenous_peoples

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_Canada

Isn't Canada also land that was forcibly colonized, by the French and British?

Leary 8 months ago [flagged]

That is whataboutism

His point is that there is basically no country on the planet that does not have some history of conquest attached to it.

Railing against it just because it's recent is just kind of arguing to a particular status quo. What makes the Chinese takeover of Taiwan any more or less legitimate than the PRC takeover of the mainland?

Leary 8 months ago [flagged]

Okay, I give approval for YC China to be in China.

It's not, because you mention directly that YC China should move to Vancouver, and the commenter said that the same issue you have with Taiwan happened in Canada.


The United States was land that was forcibly colonized by the British, French, Spanish, and Dutch. The original inhabitants are Native American people [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Amer...

> ???

Since when Code of Ethics equals to McCarthyism?

Doing business in China is unethical.

No flamebait or flamewars, please. Least of all nationalistic ones.

It has nothing to do with nationalism. The PRC is a dictatorship that currently has millions of people in concentration camps undergoing reeducation, suppresses freedom of expression for its citizens, and crushes minority cultures.

Dismissing or condemning an entire country like you did, besides being unsubstantive, certainly qualifies as nationalistic flamebait in the sense that we use the term here. Please don't post like this to HN.

I have nothing against the people of China but the PRC government and Chinese business is so intertwined that I don't think it's possible to do business with China and not interact or enable the PRC in any way.

The trouble with this is that when people bring such grandiose and generic rhetoric onto this site, the only place the discussion can go is into flamewar, as others get even more grandiose and generic (or personal).

You're not adding any information when you post like this. It's just a big opinion with a strong feeling attached. When someone else with the opposite opinion comes along and blasts their opposite strong feeling, is any information going to be exchanged? No it is not. Therefore it's off topic for thoughtful conversation, which is what we're trying for here.

HN threads thrive on curiosity and specifics, wither on the gruel of grandiosity, and burn under scorching rhetoric.

Okay dang, have a link:


A million Uyghur and Muslims in camps. That's a sixth of a Holocaust.

It's unsurprising that you Godwinned this thread, since where else can monotonic escalation go? By doing that you've cemented the point.

If you guys want to fling furious links around, you need to find another site to do it. It isn't part of thoughtful discussion—it's pure reflex.

Complaining somebody "godwinned" a thread (which is a total misrepresentation of godwins law, and even the person that coined it said this kind of interpretation of it is stupid) is an unbelievably lazy dismissal of a situation that is quite literally directly comparable to some of the worst actions the nazis took.

If we aren't allowed to talk about and compare what the nazis did, how will we learn from it?

If this comparison is not permitted in this situation, when will it ever be?

Really quite disappointed in your stance on this one.

And please, spare us the condescending attitude that we don't actually care about this stuff. If we are going to veer off into "unstated positions and assumptions" territory there is a white hot glaringly obvious apparent conflict of interest with HN moderation shutting down discussion of human rights abuses right as YC china launches, dont you think?

On the internet, basically no one is "talking about and comparing what the Nazis did" for the purpose of learning. It's a rhetorical device, the cheapest, most sensational, lowest-information one around.

We actually moderate HN threads less, not more, when YC is the topic—this is a longstanding principle on HN. But that doesn't mean we don't moderate them at all. You only need to read a small sample of the moderation comments we post to this site to see how consistent we are on these questions.




Without a doubt the worst bullshit I've ever seen from dang.

So tell us, Dan, how would one criticize the Chinese government for imprisoning dissidents and genocide, while staying within your guidelines? How must one couch it to pass the Great Firewall of Hacker News? Serious question.

The answer to your question is in the site guidelines: "Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive."


To the extent that people are fulminating rather than saying anything substantive, and reacting ideologically or tribally rather than thoughtfully, they're crossing outside the scope of what this site is for. Heated rhetoric, grandiose generalization, and angry name-calling are the kind of thing that mark this distinction. Your comment at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17764244 is an example of the kind of thing that clearly moves the needle into the red.

Dismissing links out of hand as you are here doesn't serve to help discussion either.

So, real talk, why do you think concerns over YC working with a government with super shaky human-rights record are unimportant or unfounded?

A valid answer is totally "Because we're gonna make money and nobody complaining is in a position to actually do anything."

What do you think about it?

The comment may be referencing this post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17737942

The root comment didn't reference that or anything else.

The problem with bringing such links into arguments like this is that no one does so for reasons of intellectual interest. For example, in this case, people aren't actually interested in the plight of the Uighurs. Rather, it's convenient ammunition for justifying pre-existing political and national feelings. Such a move is not part of thoughtful conversation at all; it's just ideology and tribal loyalty, which explains why the discussions are so utterly repetitive—and therefore off topic for HN.

Fair enough.

This "intellectual interest" garbage is a farce. People like us, who live in a free country, have the luxury of bantering about intellectual interests. How easy it is for you to sit comfortably and pooh-pooh criticism of your employer as not intellectual enough, and too emotionally motivated.

Of course, this is what Marxism does: fight for the oppressed--when it's convenient. The rest of the time, they are fodder.

It's not flamebait to discuss the very real, very troubling human rights issues that exist in China. It's certainly not just an "opinion." I'm seriously concerned by your calling out the parent comments like this, and even more concerned that you're doubling down in other comments. I don't think it's the best look to shut down criticism of a government like China's (no one is talking about the Chinese people here) that routinely, demonstrably commits human rights abuses. They are documented and real. The Chinese government commits murder, torture, theft...

I'm not sure what to say if HN's position is that it's too controversial (or is it that "all denunciations are the same"? They are not) to call out such actions. These discussions are clearly related to the topic at hand.

Maybe those of us criticizing the Chinese government aren't saying anything new, but that doesn't lessen the need to speak out. It's neither "rhetoric" nor "grandiosity" to point out that it's morally wrong for a government to act the way China's does.

I would expect the PRC to put a lid on this sort of criticism, not Hacker News. It's bordering on complicity.

> For example, in this case, people aren't actually interested in the plight of the Uighurs.

What an awful sentiment. Please don't profess to know my own moral compass. I am deeply concerned and sickened; we all should be. These people are being forcibly relocated and tortured by their own government.

You don't have to serve the government.

If you refuse to serve Chinese people, that's another level of the story.

If you think serving people in China is somehow helping the government, you are somehow admitting the legitimacy of the government.

Is it ethical that doing business in Five Eye countries?

Is providing tools/services to the people considered unethical comparing to providing none?

What about free services that everyone including the Chinese can access via Internet? Are they unethical because they didn't block the Chinese?


Doing business with the Chinese government is unethical. Doing business with Chinese entrepreneurs and providing services to the Chinese people is a humanitarian imperative.

Without going to far into the political weeds, the US has never delivered freedom effectively at the end of a gun, but rather through McDonalds and Coca Cola.

> Doing business with Chinese entrepreneurs and providing services to the Chinese people is a humanitarian imperative.

There is literally no way to do this without the cooperation of the Chinese government.

Than you be pragmatic and make concessions.

We should never, ever make concessions when it comes to human rights.

Elon Musk needs to hear that. Stop doing business with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund!

Yes. With the astronomical level of clout that Elon Musk has, I'm willing to call him immoral, unethical, and a bad person for doing business with KSA. A vanishingly small number of people are as influential as Musk, and his actions inspire and are emulated worldwide. Saudi Arabia is currently trying to rehabilitate its image (while maintaining its vicious corporal punishments, extremist views, support of terrorism, and legalized misogyny) and shouldn't have help from anyone who claims to care about anything other than profit.

Probably the biggest single thing you guys could do to make this thread even worse is turn it into yet another comic book feud about Elon Musk. Enough with that, please.

More generally, please don't practice the online shaming culture of denunciation on Hacker News. It makes for lousy, predictable discussion, regardless of how right you are or feel. From an intellectual curiosity point of view—which is the main value of this site—all denunciations are the same.


We make concessions every day regarding human rights in the United States (abusing immigrant/migrant labor under the table, our prison population). I am most definitely not saying it's right, but you have to look inward first when you're making such bold claims.

That's just your opinion. Other companies can have other opinions too, as long as the law doesn't force us either way.

Did you just say that the law shouldn't force us to honor human rights? Are you serious?

Hard to say to be completely honest.

On one hand I'm curious to see the responses to the idea that corporations that were founded and bloomed in liberal countries can suddenly just become "global" companies and not be held to those same liberal standards.

On the other, I look at countries like China and Russia and wonder how much mileage this "liberal world order" has left in the gas tank.

If we look at history we can see that when liberalism first encountered china it wasn't John Locke and human rights that opened up trade, but a naval blockade that forced china to capitulate (and create hong kong too, which is the most liberal country in asia).

Do we as the west have the ability or the willpower to pull a move like that again? Because if we don't then i don't see how we can overcome china other than writing more bloomberg articles on how their ghost cities are going to crash their economy any day now.

All Chinese businesses are subordinate to the PRC. It is my personal opinion that we have reached a point of technological progress where totalitarian control of massive states such as China is simply possible when it wasn't a few decades prior to the advent of modern computing.

I do not have any faith that any amount of trade with China will cause the government to reform in any meaningful way and I'm confident that China will remain a dictatorship a thousand years from now.

Given the sensitive nature of this topic, I propose HackerNews be given the authority of drafting the Code of Ethics for YC China in order to ensure democratic accountability. Posters could nominate particular statues/principles they like and the community at large can vote on them.

The HackerNews crowd isn't even allowed to make comments on YC seeded company job postings, I wouldn't hold your breath on being able to craft a sister company's code of ethics.

Nice move YC. I know Qi is highly regarded by Chinese students. He seems like a corporate vs startup guy though, so while I trust he has great access to talent and connections in industry and Govt, I'm not sure he's the best person to mentor a scrappy startup. Hope he has a good support cast.

The traditional startup also doesn't really work out in China due to the government wanting to be involved. It's much more suit driven over there and not possible just with t-shirts.

Given the previous information, he's a capable person [0], and more importantly, "honest and dedicated to work" (Originally: 自去年一月陆奇加入百度以来,公司发生了很多积极向上的变化。我和广大同学一样,都对他正直的人品、忘我的工作精神和在技术及商业领域的敏锐洞察力印象深刻……) [1].

So I guess I'm not join the team of doubt this time for now.

(Before you click, grab yourself a translator first)

[0] https://www.zhihu.com/question/277693647/answer/396254674

[1] https://www.pingwest.com/a/167091

YC's got a very, very fine line to tread if they're serious about China - with its limits on human rights and authoritarian tendencies, the Chinese government is absolutely not to be trusted. I worry about what sort of concessions tech companies have made and will make to gain access to the Chinese market.

> I worry about what sort of concessions tech companies have made and will make to gain access to the Chinese market.

Especially since the PRC government is getting much more aggressive in forcing Western companies to kowtow to their political stances even in their operations outside of China. Mercedes-Benz was forced to apologize for posting a Dalai Lama quote on Instagram [1], and a Marriott employee was fired after he "liked" a post about Tibetan independence [2]. This happened despite both websites being blocked in China.

The implications for companies with new Chinese operations that also operate an open web forum is left as an exercise for the reader.

[1] https://www.dw.com/en/mercedes-bows-to-chinese-pressure-afte...

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/marriott-employee-roy-jones-hit...

Agreed 100%. To me it's madness that Marriott and Benz wouldn't stand up for the right to speak one's mind.

I'm pretty sure Marriott and Benz stand up firsthand to their owners and in their list of priorities access to chinese markets is more important than human rights.

Given our worship of capital I'm amazed global emancipation of slavery ever happened. But I suppose that was only because new financial markets and industrialization created lots of better opportunities for capital investment than slave labour force - hence the market for slaves dwindled.

> I'm pretty sure Marriott and Benz stand up firsthand to their owners and in their list of priorities access to chinese markets is more important than human rights.

That is indeed the problem.

You mean Mercedes, the company that used slave laborers from camps to build vehicles and engines for the Nazis?

> You mean Mercedes, the company that used slave laborers from camps to build vehicles and engines for the Nazis?

One would have hoped they'd have learned something from that.

I think this is a very American perspective; I'm American as well. It is very easy for us to forget our own human rights abuses, like bombing children in the Middle East, torture in Abu Ghraib, etc. etc. and focus on other countries as the "bad guys". America's leadership has made mistakes, China's leadership has made mistakes, but to use those mistakes to promote isolationism divides us as a global people. China runs their country differently. If YC can promote new startups in China, perhaps one day those startups will be the driving cause of unifying the world. Most citizens only loosely affiliate with their country. Many Chinese, like Americans, want to make their home and the world a better place. To remix from Richard Dawkins, A child is not an American child, not a Chinese child, but a child of American parents or a child of Chinese parents.

Many Chinese, like Americans, want to make their home and the world a better place

How about respecting human rights? That would be a start.

Technology can help for some things, but past a certain point, "making the world a better place" also imply policy changes.

And what I'm saying is, my government doesn't respect human rights, but I as a citizen do. You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater arguing private US business shouldn't work with anyone in China because they must all be human rights abusers. /s

You seriously think this is about making the world a better place?

It's about money. Private businesses don't care about Chinese citizens. They care about cold hard cash.

Now, am I saying private US businesses shouldn't work with anyone in China? Not really. All I'm sayng is: at the end of the day, technology can only do so much. Eventually, policy must change also and this is valid for any country, including the US.

I don't mean to be blunt, but YC, as an institution, doesn't really care about anything besides money. They're venture capitalists. That the CCP is putting Muslims in high-tech concentration camps is of little concern compared to how much they think they can make in the Chinese market.

That's why I feel compelled to speak up about this. There are things more important than money.

Not sure why that parent comment was flagged, he was just pointing out the fact that companies value profit, everything else is optional.

Is that not allowed to be uttered around here anymore?

There was also something about "Muslims in concentration camps" - but there's another link in this very thread talking about how Uyghurs are being put in camps by the PRC, so I'm not sure either how speaking truth to power got flagged.

Markets have already given the Chinese regime enormous economic power, its easy to ignore the gross human rights violations if you have a cheap iphone and your own dignity isn't impaired. Beware the new colonial power.

Every one wants to be part of the next Chinese startups, an incubator has less risk than other big corporations. Qi Lu knows technology and knows how to navigate his way with the Chinese government. Hopefully they can be part of the startup ecosystem in China.

Exactly. I am not sure what Sam Altman is up to here, but this may be something that Silicon Valley companies and the free world will regret deeply in the future. He mentions

> to ensure that the benefits of that are fairly spread throughout humanity.

Yes, but technologies at the hands of a dictatorship is dangerous. This morning, there was just a thread about Chinese surveillance/censorship technologies being sold to other countries. Lord help us if the Chinese government somehow gets its hands on a superior weapons tech, or smarter AI.

He also says

> Qi will also take over as the Head of YC Research, YC’s non-profit research lab.

We've heard several prominent lawsuits in recent months on how Chinese nationals stolen and transfered US techs into Chinese companies (possibly government involvement). Qi Lu literally said "The Chinese government understands what AI can do, and they show a lot of commitment for sustained and long-term investment...AI is part of China’s national five-year plan, and just a few months ago, the Chinese government published a comprehensive white paper to call out a systematic investment in AI." https://venturebeat.com/2018/01/09/baidu-coo-says-chinas-gov.... We're literally handing the Chinese government some of the Western world's greatest knowledge and inventions.

This is scary scary thing. I am not sure what YC is thinking, allowing Sam Altman to do this.

You've been using HN exclusively for political argument about China since you created this account. That's not a legit use of the site, as the guidelines explain: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html. HN is a place for curiosity-driven discussion on a wide range of things, not prosecuting a political or national agenda.

Edit: it looks like you've been creating tons of accounts just to argue about China. That's clearly abusive, so we've banned this one. Please don't create accounts to break the site guidelines with.

I suspect Altman is a staunch supporter of globalization (his twitter is pretty lefty). Meanwhile there is a large cross section of Americans who aren't as positive and some downright against globalization (myself one of them).

> Lord help us if the Chinese government somehow gets its hands on a superior weapons tech, or smarter AI.

Why wouldn't they get their hands on that? With companies like HPE existing as now defacto chinese companies I just don't see how anyone can see this as a if rather than a when.

> We're literally handing the Chinese government some of the Western world's greatest knowledge and inventions.

Isn't this great though? More innovation spread amongst the world. This is what liberalism tells us, that there is no distinction between people living under different nations.

If we can make the lives of chinese citizens better like we use AI to make ours better, why should minor issues like government "stealing knowledge" (whatever that is) be some big issue?

> why should minor issues like government "stealing knowledge" (whatever that is) be some big issue?

Because that's not at all the only issue; the ruling party actively suppresses dissent, stifles speech, and allows little to no disagreement. Minorities and dissenters are locked away with no trial. Censorship is rampant. There's a lot more to worry about than just IP theft or corporate espionage.

Ok even if i don't like those actions a startup shouldn't worry about those issues. I might have political views but I don't bring them to work.

If something is so bad then that's for the governments to sort out, we are just here to do our best to make profitable companies.

Large companies have vastly more influence on governments than regular people. It's unethical to just turn a blind eye to "those actions." Companies have leverage and should use it.

Are you seriously willing to work for anyone, their politics and actions be damned? Have you heard about the concept of the "Good German"?

Companies should, and do, take an active role in the world around them (both positively and negatively)

> Why wouldn't they get their hands on that?

They wouldn't because most of the western democratic countries are now actively preventing China from stealing their technologies. US with the empowered CFIUS, with the latest defense bill. Germany just prevented 2 key companies from being taken over by China. France drafted anti-takeover measures (aimed at China) amid foreign investment boom. EU is actively seeking to put up united front against Chinese investment by end of year. And yet Sam Altman is just going to give China free knowhow/technologies.

> make the lives of chinese citizens better

Are you not aware of the sesame credit enacted by the Chinese government? Facial recognition in cameras installed everywhere? Millions of muslims in reeducation camps in Xinjiang? Are you proposing we give this government even more power and innovation??

If anything, the Chinese government can take over a private startup quickly, and use the tech against Silicon Valley companies.

> They wouldn't because most of the western democratic countries are now actively preventing China from stealing their technologies.

Thats all kind of small considering the kind of information that has already been dropshiped out with no real punishments to the chinese government itself.

All these efforts are is trying to plug the holes, not realizing the holes aren't just company buyouts but mostly espionage via chinese citizens. Even if you lock them up, they still sent the data, nothing was really prevented.

> And yet Sam Altman is just going to give China free knowhow/technologies.

Yea? Because that's all government and politics. This is markets and profits.

> Are you not aware of the sesame credit enacted by the Chinese government? Facial recognition in cameras installed everywhere?

Yea alot of people actually like it, being able to get benefits for being an upstanding system. I've heard it described as a system of karma.

Besides, we have the same things anyway, credit scores and CCTV, we just have a different cultural view of it.

> Millions of muslims in reeducation camps in Xinjiang?

And we don't put muslims in jail at higher rates than the native populations? See this just all seems like reflecting the fact that all countries have these issues.

> If anything, the Chinese government can take over a private startup quickly, and use the tech against Silicon Valley companies.

Maybe, but that's the business risk you take. If they think that's the best way to run their country, what right do we have to tell them they are wrong? Especially when we aren't exactly innocent.

This sort of whataboutism isn't helpful. We have the right to call out human rights abuses; further, I think we have an obligation to use that right lest we lose it. Are you aware that the average citizen in China simply cannot tell their government that it's wrong? It doesn't matter what abuses the US or other Western nations have or haven't done - the PRC is still in the wrong.

> the PRC is still in the wrong

Ill just leave it here by saying that to even label something in another culture as "wrong" you first have to understand that the word "wrong" is deeply entrenched in western culture and can't simply just be thrown around at other cultures who have constructed entirely different systems of morality and language to express them.

> Thats all kind of small considering the kind of information that has already been dropshiped out with no real punishments to the chinese government itself.

The western world IS punishing the Chinese government right now. $50B in tariffs and investment restrictions. And it is having an effect on China. Chinese leadership is panicking. Its stock market keeps dropping, its currency weakening, its factories leaving. Wait until the tariffs go up higher and higher.

And you make it sound like China has already got all the techs - no it doesn't. Its military at least 2-3 generations behind. It is still far behind in semiconductor technologies, aircraft, engine, hardware, software, operating system, AI, robotics, etc.

> we have the same things anyway, credit scores and CCTV

The world isn't black and white; it's shades of grey. credit score is not as sesame credit. One can travel/leave the country and one cannot. CCTV is not the same as surveilance/arrest without court of law.

> See this just all seems like reflecting the fact that all countries have these issues.

Do you seriously not understand the difference between concentration camps for people that have not violated laws, vs prisons?

> Especially when we aren't exactly innocent.

You don't need to be angelic to stop evil.

Lol, what makes you think they can’t invent their own

Indeed, given the recent news in East Uyghurstan. I had to double check my calendar to see that it was not April 1st. Limits to human rights by a government is intolerable in the modern epoch. Anyone that uses a Chinese product is complicit in cultural genocide. If HN doesn't speak truth to power, who else will?

Their job is to make money. Why people think otherwise is beyond me.

First they make money in China, then they'll copy what made them money to India, then to the western world. Sounds like a slippery slope to me. I saw a couple of sci-fi movies that showed this doesn't turn out well. [1]

[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1856101/

Not to mention their policies of stealing intellectual property and dumping steel and aluminum. Thankfully and as I expected the US tariffs have really hurt their stock market, meanwhile the US stock market is at near all time highs.

Ah, this is the same Qi Lu who was basically responsible for the creation of Bing, then got Office and AI in a reorg, and then somehow got pushed out by Satya and went on to be CTO of Baidu for awhile.

The YCR connection makes sense, since he has a lot of experience in AI where much of YCR is now at, but it will be interesting to see how he will interact with Bret Victor's group. Are they going to start a YC-like incubator in China? It will be interesting to see how this compares to Kai Fu's Innovation Works.

>Qi Lu who was basically responsible for the creation of Bing

Qi Lu is not responsible for the creation of Bing. MSN Search project was well underway in 2005, then it was re-branded as Live Search, then as Bing. Qi Lu is joined in 2008.

Bing really is a pile of garbage though (perhaps a little better these days but no where near as good as Google). I'm surprised he wasn't fired sooner. Was he friends with Ballmer?

Qi was actually one of the better SVPs at Microsoft, I think he was even on the list for the CEO spot that Satya got.

He was given an almost impossible task in competing with Google basically from scratch. Ya, he didn't completely succeed, but that isn't very surprising.

What happened at the end, I'm not really sure. I was pretty surprised when I heard he was gone with Harry Shum taking over most of what he was in charge of.

(I worked at Bing when this all went down.)

It was a strange departure. He apparently got in some kind of cycling accident and took medical leave from Microsoft for recovery, but then just a few months later he was a senior executive at Baidu. Not sure what was up with that.

But contra the GP, the general opinion both during and after Lu's tenure was that he did a good job. It took a while, but Bing is profitable now, and he did a lot to get that in motion. I imagine it can't be psychologically easy to run an unprofitable department for years with the eye on long-term strategy, especially in the Ballmer era, but he pulled it off. Bing is not the disaster money pit that a lot of HN assumes it to be.

As good as Google is, I'm glad we have alternatives to choose from. Bing is actually pretty good in China where Google is not available.

I use Bing as my primary search engine while in China. It isn't blocked, has excellent search results, and is a general drop in replacement for Google/DDG. Baidu is a bit harder to navigate as a foreigner. I don't even try with Baidu Maps.

Baidu sucks and isn’t really worth the time to use. Maybe it’s kuch better in Chinese, but their English results are horrible.

How is Bing a pile of garbage? It takes some effort to come up with a search for which it or ddg are markedly worse than google. FWIW I still use google.

For streaming links you can't really find anything with Google anymore. Ddg works really well.

This is completely ignorant, given the massive advantages that Google has. To be fair, on the backend ranking algorithm side of things Bing and MSR did a lot of very innovative work. Google just has a massive, insurmountable data advantage that any newcomer cannot overcome.

Hahaha people talking about ethics are silly ... This is business in a market, potentially, at least 3x bigger than the current biggest market! Are you nuts? Everybody's gonna do business in China! Everybody! In some form or shape.

> Everybody's gonna do business in China! Everybody! In some form or shape.

Well, if China lets them.

It will with time, once they have a stronger middle class with a better purchasing power.

The rest of the world is big enough for me.

the rest of the world don't have a unified market as big as China, that is root cause.

the same law, the same government, 0 tariff between provinces, and the same language,

all of these properties lead to one thing. extremely low cost of products which is Competitiveness.

Caring about human rights is silly?

That's not what I am saying ... It's silly to think that 'investors' will ignore such a giant opportunity just because there's human rights issues. It's just naive!

Yes but this is not just some random investor. This taints the brand that is YC.

The statement they are making is “we don’t care about oppressive governments and ethics. As long as we’re churning out billion dollar unicorns, we’ll invest in anything”.

I have a lot of respect for China, I also know China may be the most likely to use AI against their citizens to suppress them. Do YC funded companies really want to enable that?

What does YC really stand for?

Yeah this is YC as you're saying ... They're not gonna be left behind. Hurting their brand might be a risk that they can mitigate but not investing in China is not going to bring it democracy.

Caring about human rights is not silly.

Expecting capitalists (the economic class, not the ideological faction) to put human rights over returns on capital is, if not silly, at least naively optimistic.

That's why we speak out (like this!) and force them to do the right thing. As I've said elsewhere, there are things more important than profit. Companies that disagree ought to be boycotted.

Maybe that's naive. It's still the right thing to do. No amount of money can shift what's right and wrong.

there are things more important than profit

I don't think our civilization has suffered enough to really understand that. The current state of the environment is a good example.

You can work for fun or charity, but you can't and shouldn't force anyone else do the same thing. That's called moral abduction.

It is if you apply it to China and not to the U.S.

If you want to make it in China then yea, you probably shouldn't be too hung up on human rights. It's not some universal concept that has applied throughout the world for our existence so it's quite rude to pretend like China has to bow to these systems of human rights we developed without china's input.

> It’s not some universal concept

> it’s quite rude

> we developed without china’s input

It is hard to argue that detaining 1 million people for their beliefs[0] and then torturing them[1] is justifiable by cultural relativism. Or massacring people for that matter[2]. At that point you could argue for any atrocity.

It’s not rude it’s basic humanity. It’s not just completely reasonable to ask a government in charge of more than a billion people to please exercise basic humane standards, it’s morally atrocious to suggest otherwise. The Chinese government deserves all they criticism they get for what they have done and continue to do, and it’s arguable that we in the west deserve criticism for enabling them.

[0] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-45147972

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/former-inm...

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of...

Most Americans just don't care. In a few years it will be as unpopular to talk about China's exploits as it is talking about Israel-Palestine. You can argue that Europeans don't care either, but at least the work culture and society is different enough from China to make the latter unappealing. Much less so for Americans.

The Chinese government is not the Chinese people

I don't think the Chinese people approve of many of the things their government does. Though censorship makes dissent harder to "prove"

A lot of americans don't approve of many things the government does but we don't call them a dictatorship oppressing the people.

Plenty of western countries are involved in censorship on a smaller scale but that's not considered evil and suppressing the true views of the public.

One easy example being mega projects, here in the west we seem to wax poetic constantly about returning to the good old days where a nation could undertake mega-projects and yet china just keeps doing them faster than we can keep track.

I'm sure many westerners and chinese both want to see these things happen and yet they are doing it and we aren't? Is that some proof that we are suppressed citizens? Or maybe its a bit more nuanced.

>A lot of americans don't approve of many things the government does but we don't call them a dictatorship oppressing the people.

Because the government doesn't block you from saying those things. It's concerning to me that you don't appear to know what the definition of 'oppression' or 'dictatorship' is.

>One easy example being mega projects, here in the west we seem to wax poetic constantly about returning to the good old days where a nation could undertake mega-projects and yet china just keeps doing them faster than we can keep track.

When you throw enough suffering and death at a project, you can build quickly. Nobody with a brain is suggesting we do projects the same way we did the hoover dam that resulted in silicosis.

> but we don't call them a dictatorship oppressing the people.

That's because there's an actual definition of dictatorship. China is a dictatorship, the US is not.

> Plenty of western countries are involved in censorship on a smaller scale but that's not considered evil and suppressing the true views of the public.

Yes it is.

It's not some universal concept that has applied throughout the world for our existence so it's quite rude to pretend like China has to bow to these systems of human rights we developed without china's input.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights[1] was signed by China and Dr. Peng-chun Chang (who was Chinese) took part in its drafting[2].

Which part of it do you think China doesn't officially agree with?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human...

[2] http://www.un.org/en/sections/universal-declaration/drafters...

You don't need input to realize that the government oppression of millions of individuals is wrong.

Maybe it's rude to the Chinese leadership but the ordinary people there probably quite like having rights.

The very idea of a right is that it is universal.

Grue3 8 months ago [flagged]

People probably said the same about Nazi Germany at some point. Not even Godwining, they have actual concentration camps over there.

Very exciting to have such a huge presence opening YC China. Keen to see what comes out of this!

A response to the press is not legalese.

I assume that most of the people that commented on this article live in the U.S. The majority of the world sees the U.S. as the world's biggest threat to world peace, yet I don't see anybody on Hacker News claiming companies shouldn't do business with the U.S. Since the war in Iraq, can we think of something that the Chinese government has done that is worse? I disagree strongly with the notion that the Chinese government's influence on the world is somehow worse than the influence of the U.S. I do think there is something to be said about boycotting governments that abuse human rights, but I think it is hypocritical to think that somehow that doesn't apply to the U.S.

USA is fairly variant in its own chaos, no president gets more than 8 years, internet censorship by the state is looked down by all parties; people who oppose the wars it goes can complain without fearing for their lives; a big chunk of this behavior and similar ones is because the US is made from people of a lot of races including Asians and Asia-descendants.

On the other hand China just recently confirmed a "president for life", that's always a bad idea, remember the last "president for life" China had? Yeah... So despite U.S. being more likely to start wars its open to change from the inside; China is a solid big time bomb with little to no space for change and once they decide to enter a war it will likely be the last one.

I agree that the U.S. is way more democratic than China. My argument is that the wars that the U.S. has started have been way more damaging to the world and, as a consequence, moral objections to doing business with China without having those same objections when doing business with the U.S. just seems hypocritical to me.

The chance that in a couple decades the US is part of no big war is existent; the chance that China is gonna become a democracy in a couple of decades is null; so yeah, doesn't seem that hypocritical to me.

This is not a game of chance. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. Let's base our principles based on what actually happens. I think it's ridiculous to give the U.S. a pass because the killing might stop in a few decades.

Well... you are using a website created by silicon valley millionaires in the heart of America using a technology called internet created mostly by a military organization (DARPA) to check news about american startups and american technologies so that probably puts you a bit on the hypocritical side of things...

> can we think of something that the Chinese government has done that is worse?


A horrible act, but I don't see how it is worse than the war in Iraq.

You really don’t read HN much if you’ve missed all the criticism leveled at the USA.

You got me there. It's just that almost all of the current comments talk about how YC shouldn't do business in China, while they're already doing business in the U.S. I just don't see how it is worse, when the U.S. has a far more violent recent past.

There are many comments that don’t say that, however.

The USA is still a great place to do business if you want to make money. My only arguments against China is that the system is more rigged against foreigners from making money there.

The moral arguments are a distraction, though they are mostly true. Yes, China has third world problems, yes the USA has first world problems. Whatever, the world is an imperfect place.

I don't think the moral arguments are a distraction if they are reasonable. Any intelligent person can see that both the US and China have problems and wouldn't want to contribute to those problems. And to not do that one has to look at ones intentions, motivations and actions.

Most individuals just don't have a lot of pull and we can compensate, at least somewhat, through other means. People visiting, buying products from or to some extent working in these countries isn't the problem. Most people aren't qualified to make an assessment, can't really be expected to go out of their way and won't, hopefully, engage in propaganda.

What YC is doing is just incredibly high on that scale. If you start a company in the US chances are you don't know better, since the US has a much better reputation, or you have to be there, since you were born or just very aware of it. You can treat your employees well, protest the US government and you can sue companies, people or the government itself.

YC should not only know better but will be able to do very little of those things in China. And it will be a huge win for China in general. This makes their actual step into China much worse. You can't really come back in five years and criticize them for working with the government and their investments doing objectionable things. Well you can, but it isn't very practical.

Why do we even insist on justice? Most of us can just mind our own business and do fine. It is of course on behalf the people who get mistreated. Their condition is the actual cost of our actions. Most of us can, sort of, live with that we largely unintentional enable mistreatment of many people in the developing world. But for a small entity with a lot of impact those actions becomes a lot costlier. So such decision are and should therefor be much harder to justify.

I agree.

> YC has been very successful in the world by believing that hackers – not businesspeople – can build the biggest companies.

Virtually every non-technologist businessperson who becomes a manager in the IT industry will present themselves as a technologist. They will usually have some real technical people at their beck and call to help with the stuff they can't fake.

> Hand-held devices allow police to quickly check the content of phones on the street.

That's amazing to anyone who has struggled to connect an Android device to Windows via USB just to access a file or two.

I guess that pretty much leaves out Hong Kong, Macau then?

The interview [1] by 36kr does a much better job of introduction and vision he has for YC China. Unfortunately it is in Chinese only.

[1] https://36kr.com/p/5148299.html

Interesting! Unfortunately it doesn't seem to say where YC China would be based.

Some interesting snippets (G Translated):

Lu Qi: YC China's new business will include

1) business incubation, 2) talent training, 3) research and 4) public welfare.

These are all in a way that Lu Qi's plan will operate in an unprecedented way. He wants more than just new technology. Technology is only an ability to change society. He wants to establish a new ecological support for new technology to change the society. That is the correct way to open the new world in his mind.


Q: How will YC China start?

Lu Qi: Among the four businesses, the first to start is the incubator. Incubation camps are the first attempt at YC localization, but at the same time it draws on the core of YC:

1. The methodology of the incubator process and training content established by Paul Graham;

2. A network of YC alumni with more than 4,000 people. Alumni will help later entrepreneurs, and for Chinese entrepreneurs, alumni networks around the world can set up channels for offshore companies;

3. The YC brand, which is incubated by YC, is equivalent to being recognized and endorsed, and is more likely to be favored by investment institutions.

In other respects, YC China may develop its own entrepreneurship curriculum and expect to reverse the influence of American entrepreneurs because I believe that globalization is the best way to innovate. YC China's research institute will be established under the YC Global Research Institute and will establish cooperation with Chinese research institutions. Finally, the charity business is hoping to focus on solving the impact of new technologies on people's employment.

However, it is now the first day of the launch of YC China, and everything is still very early. I only have one person now. The most important thing at the moment is recruiting people.


Lu Qi: Because we need to build a new innovation ecosystem, so many players with different roles can participate.

The first is Chinese investors. Because YC China will be closer to the early projects, it hopes to establish good interaction with Chinese middle and late investors. Also, YC China will also raise funds independently, and I hope to get support from China LP.

Second, we and the big companies will also have a lot of cooperation. YC China's investment projects may be acquired, acquired, or serviced by large companies in the later stages.

YC China Research Institute will also establish contacts with government or research institutions within the enterprise, and hopes to become China's support for the country to become a big country in innovation.


Sam has said on many occasions that 10 companies will reach Google in the next decade, three to four of them will be born in China, and more than 20 years of professional experience tells me that these three or four companies must be Believe in long-term companies.

Is this going to follow the same investment structure as YC “Classic” or will that be changing as well? The amount of cash thrown at a YC company could go a long way in China.

Will YC be taking a stand on China’s rampant theft of intellectual property or tacitly encouraging it as part of “being a start up”?

It’s troubling that this statement is so overtly unserious. Has YC and its surrounding culture become so insulated that they cannot see the obviously self-defeating through-line in this statement?

“Our mission at YC is to enable more innovation than any other company in the world, and to ensure that the benefits of that are fairly spread throughout humanity.”

Do you really think it’s possible to ensure that the benefits of innovation are spread fairly while simultaneously partnering with an oppressive, cruel government in order to create vast pools of wealth controlled by a tiny subset of individuals allied with that government?

I can understand why someone would try to get as rich as possible and would turn a blind eye toward obvious moral compromise. I can also understand the utilitarian impulse to “ensure that the benefits of [innovation] are fairly spread throughout humanity.” But I can’t understand ignorance of the wild contradictions between those two “missions.”

If you want to spread innovation equally, you should be working to support dissident voices in China and you should be putting 95% of you and your associates’ vast personal wealth behind the political project of reversing Republican-engineered inequality here at home.

Helping people in China who you deem most likely to succeed (working in harmony with the government, of course) to become even more successful is not, in fact, helping to make the distribution of benefits among humanity more fair.

TL:DR — Choose only one: fairness among humans or the accumulation of vast personal wealth by collaborating with governments that brutally oppress their own citizens.

There are majority of society and economic activity that are neutral to policitics.

Why cannot YC improve invocation by focusing on those areas?!

If your dad said harsh words to you, are you going to claim that you are made inferior to normal citizen or you are working with a repressive parent?

When you help a country get richer and that country has a history of human right violations you are aiding the tyrants running the country even if you declare yourself "neutral to politics" and even if you have the best of intentions.

Isn't China's human rights situation got vastly improved with its improved economy?

No, it hasn't: "One Million Muslim Uighurs Have Been Detained by China, the U.N. Says. Where’s the Global Outrage?" https://theintercept.com/2018/08/13/china-muslims-uighur-det...

OK OK Seems no country improved in terms of human rights. I cannot continue this nonsensical discussion.

Some have, but the topic is China. If you want to generalise it would make more sense to pick better examples.

Every successful business deal done in concert with a given dictator entrenches that dictator's power. Some other commenter demonstrated the technique elsewhere in this discussion: "but the dictators have lifted so many Chinese people out of poverty!"

Through this deal, YC is taking an active position in support of the Chinese dictatorship and is helping them increase their grip on power.

Sure, that's a good point.

But as I said, there is reasonable motivation to try to help the people genuinely. At least let them have better internet services; not the shitty ones from BAT...

> There are majority of society and economic activity that are neutral to policitics.

You may believe that but the communists do not.

The question is how non-communists think.

Looking forward to YC South East Asia or YC Asia. Don't forget us.

I don't think it'll happen. If you're from New York or Canada or Europe etc, the advice is "Come to SV for the incubator, start an American company, and run it from back home in the long run if you don't/can't move here."

That doesn't work so well for China because of capital controls and because the Chinese business environment is so hostile to foreign companies.

I assume companies with websites censored by the great firewall won't have access to YC China funding?

Not sure Qi Lu is the best person for this position.

Though Qi was born in China, he almost spent his all career time in the US. Probably the time he worked in China is less than one year. You can't expect this person knows China market, Chinese young people, Chinese companies well, and has connections with people in China gov.

And he worked for big companies only (Yahoo, Microsoft, Baidu). He never worked in startups. Can he find and invest good startups? I don't know.

Anyway, YC entering China is a good thing. Hope Google search will come back to China soon.

Someone told me that a webpage with the following would get your internet access cut off in China: June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre. Can someone translate to Mandarin please.

It used to be that if you searched for some bad things in google.cn or wikipedia you would get put in a penalty box for 5 or so minutes where your internet wouldn't work. Two things stopped this: first, everyone moved over to https so ISPs couldn't tell what you were doing anymore; and google was eventually blocked anyways.

Now, China solely relies on blocking entire websites or relying on compliance of services. So Google is blocked, while Bing will actually harmonize their search results in China (the search will still turn things up, but some results might be hidden).

Not true

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