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外国领导人为什么都爱参观硅谷

2014-03-11    来源:财富网    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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外国元首每逢访问美国,一定会去参观科技界的麦加圣地——硅谷。一方面,领导人希望展示自己崇尚科技、重视创新的形象;另一方面,此举也意在寻求与美国科技界可能的合作机会。

Foreign leaders visiting the United States can fill their itineraries from a long list of fabulous destinations to conduct international diplomacy. Scenic mountains, balmy beaches, and a certain city that never sleeps would seem like top contenders. But instead, presidents and prime ministers from around the world are flocking to Silicon Valley, the land of office parks and suburban sprawl. Getting to know top executives from Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), and Apple (AAPL), it turns out, is almost as important as photo-ops and meetings in Washington, D.C.

Last week, French President François Hollande became the latest such figure to make a pilgrimage to the world's technology capital. In the last few years, leaders from Israel, Ireland, New Zealand, Turkey, Russia, Netherlands, Lithuania, and Malaysia have also visited. Their interest reflects the growing muscle of Silicon Valley companies and venture capitalists, with which heads of state are trying to curry favor in hopes of attracting business, investment, and any political cachet that comes from championing innovation.

"They're looking for jobs," said William Miller, a former provost at Stanford University who accompanied a number of foreign delegations in Silicon Valley over the years. "They also have a feeling that a larger company -- whether Intel or Google -- could locate there and become a magnet for others."

During his brief visit, Hollande met with dozens of top Silicon Valley executives. A private lunch included Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman; Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook; and Twitter (TWTR) co-founder Jack Dorsey. In addition, Hollande opened a new technology incubator in San Francisco for French startups, which aren't exactly taking the world by storm from home.

Incubators devoted to just one country, which are often sponsored by foreign governments, have fast become a Silicon Valley fixture. Israel, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, and Australia are among those with beachheads that support young companies and help with access to U.S. investors and partners.

The playbook followed by foreign leaders is well-established. Get off the plane in San Francisco, hold a few events to highlight their enthusiasm for all things tech, then mingle with a few well-known tech executives over a gourmet lunch or at a town hall meeting.

In 2012, Shimon Peres, Israel's president, made the trip to Facebook's headquarters during a four-day tour of Silicon Valley to promote Israeli startups. During an interview on stage with Sandberg, he described himself as a fan of social networking. People can use it, he said, to work around governments and achieve peace on their own -- although peace in the Middle East seems to be just as elusive now as ever.

Last year, Haiti's prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, made a rare trifecta by visiting the headquarters of Facebook, Google, and Apple in one stateside trip. It was an opportunity to ask wealthy technology companies to help his impoverished country, which is reeling from a devastating earthquake, with jobs and aid. The companies donated free servers and some premium online tools. But few Haitians have online connections at home, and pledges were small compared to the country's myriad problems.

Like many heads of state that visit Silicon Valley, Hollande was trying to send a message back home that he supports innovation and is working to turn France into a "startup republic." But many French entrepreneurs accuse Hollande of undermining them with a new law that sets the top tax rate at 75%. Avoiding the tax issue in public comments, Hollande threw out a welcome mat for American investment in French companies. Of all the American investment in French companies, one-third comes from California, he pointed out.

"In California, you want to change the world, and it's a beautiful mission -- a very ambitious mission, but one we really understand because we have the same vision," he said in a speech at San Francisco's City Hall. "For centuries, France wanted to change the world, and together we can change the world. We can change the way we consume, we produce -- the way we deal with health or technology in order to make the world a better place."
 
Usually, foreign leaders steer clear of the differences they have with the technology companies they're courting. No need to inflame tensions, after all, over issues like privacy, human rights, and regulations. Hollande's government is probing whether technology companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn (LNKD) illegally dodged taxes. Moreover, France recently punished Google for privacy violations by requiring it to post an embarrassing notice about its misdeeds on its home page for 48 hours.

Google did not respond to requests for comment about Hollande's visit or his government or targeting it with investigations. Facebook would only give a vague statement along the lines of, "Let's all work together."

"We welcomed the opportunity to meet with President Hollande and some members of his government for an open discussion about France and its role in fostering innovation and attracting foreign investment," Facebook said.

The phenomenon of foreign leaders flocking to Silicon Valley isn't entirely new. François Mitterand, another French president, toured Silicon Valley in 1984, during which his wife Danielle, peppered Steve Jobs with uncomfortable questions about worker welfare like overtime pay and vacations rather than gushing about the technology, according to Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography of Jobs. Before Silicon Valley's rise, foreign leaders visited factories in the Rust Belt. Now, it's the same idea, just a different growth industry.

Silicon Valley leaders reciprocate some of the attention they receive. When they go abroad, they often find a warm reception. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a trip to Japan in 2012. And last year, both he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, met with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye.

Meetings aren't always courtesy calls. In some cases, some real business-diplomacy is done. Last year, in a joint meeting in Paris with Hollande, Google's Schmidt signed an agreement in which the company pledged to pay $80 million to help French media companies build their presence online. The deal settled a dispute in which French news outlets accused Google of stealing their content by showing snippets of their work in search results.

What do Silicon Valley leaders get in return? Plenty. Friends in high places can only help when it comes time for their governments to draft regulations about intellectual property, immigration, and permitting, for example. Actual business deals are few and far between, at least in the short term. But the meetings can sometimes get the ball rolling.

"There's a sense that if the rest of the world is doing better, we'll do better," Miller, the former Stanford provost, said of the CEO mindset. "It's not competition but cooperation. Product innovation doesn't just occur in one place anymore."


 

 

 

访问美国的外国元首在开展国际外交的时候原本可以在行程中加入长长一列度假胜地。风景优美的名山、温和宜人的海滩和某个不夜城似乎都是最佳的选择。然而,世界各地的总统和首相们却纷纷选择了硅谷这个办公园区林立、郊区扩张无序的地方。看来,结识谷歌(Google)、Facebook和苹果(Apple)的高管们与在华盛顿首府合影和会谈几乎具有同等的重要性。

上周,法国总统弗朗索瓦•奥朗德成为了最近一个造访全球科技之都的国家领导人。过去的几年中,以色列、爱尔兰、新西兰、土耳其、俄罗斯、荷兰、立陶宛和马来西亚的元首也都曾经来到这里参观。他们对硅谷的兴趣反映了硅谷公司和风险投资家们日益强大的影响力。各国元首正在向他们示好,希望从这些顶尖的创新思维中找出经商、投资和提高政治声誉的办法。

多年来陪同过多位外国代表团的斯坦福大学(Stanford University)前教务长威廉•米勒说:“他们盯着的是就业机会。他们同时也觉得,无论是英特尔(Intel)还是谷歌,只要大型公司在他们的国家落户,就会吸引其他的大公司。”

奥朗德在短暂的访问期间会见了许多硅谷的顶级高管。他邀请了谷歌的董事会主席埃里克•施密特,Facebook首席运营官谢丽尔•桑德伯格和Twitter的共同创始人杰克•多西共进私人午餐。此外,奥朗德还在旧金山设立了一个新的科技孵化器来帮助法国的初创公司,后者目前尚未在世界上掀起潮流。

通常由国外政府赞助、专门扶持某国企业的孵化器迅速成为了硅谷的一道风景。以色列、爱尔兰、丹麦、德国和澳大利亚是最早一批赞助新公司、帮助它们与美国投资商和合伙人接触的国家。

外国领导人的参观剧本已经形成了固定的路数。他们从旧金山下飞机,举办几场活动表现出他们对一切科技问题的热衷,然后与几位著名的科技公司高管共进美味午餐,或者在市政厅接见他们。

2012年,以色列总统西蒙•佩雷斯为推动以色列初创公司的发展,展开了四天的硅谷之旅。期间,他访问了Facebook总部。与桑德伯格进行公开会谈时,他把自己形容为社交网络的粉丝。他表示,不同政府部门的公务员可以利用社交网络协同工作,和平共处——尽管中东从来都没真正存在过什么和平。

去年,海地总理洛朗•拉莫特到访期间罕见地连续拜访了Facebook、谷歌和苹果的总部。当时,他的国家刚刚遭受地震,极其贫困,正是向富有的科技公司请求经济和就业援助的好机会。这些公司捐赠了免费的服务器和一些额外的网络工具。但是海地几乎没有人能在家里上网,与海地的种种困难相比,这些援助只是杯水车薪。

就如许多访问硅谷的国家元首一样,奥朗德也试图向国内传达他支持创新、力图将法国建设成“初创公司共和国”的信息。但许多法国企业家谴责奥朗德,称他颁布新法、将最高税率定为75%是在掏空他们。奥朗德回避了公众对税务问题的意见,对美国向法国公司的投资表示了欢迎。他指出,向法国投资的美国公司中,有三分之一来自加利福尼亚。

“来到加利福尼亚,人就想要改变世界,而这是一个美丽的使命,也是一个雄心勃勃的使命。但我们能够理解,因为我们有着同样的愿景,” 奥朗德在旧金山市政大厅的演讲中说。“几个世纪以来,法国一直都想要改变世界,而我们携手并进,足以达成这一目标。我们可以改变我们的消费模式、生产模式,以至于我们应对健康问题和技术问题的手段,从而让世界变得更加美好。”

通常,外国领导人会对他们与正在讨好的科技公司之间存在的分歧避而不谈。毕竟,在隐私、人权和法律管制问题上引起紧张情绪是没必要的。奥朗德政府正在调查谷歌、Facebook和LinkedIn这类科技公司是否存在非法偷税漏税的问题。此外,法国政府最近还惩罚了谷歌侵犯隐私的行为,要求它在网站首页保留48小时的尴尬的道歉声明。

谷歌并未就奥朗德的拜访、法国政府及针对谷歌进行的调查问题发表相关评论。Facebook只是发表了一个模糊的声明,类似于“我们携手并进。”

Facebook表示:“能够会见奥朗德总统及其政府成员,开诚布公地讨论法国及其在培养创新精神、吸引国外投资问题上扮演的角色,我们对这样的机会表示欢迎。”

外国领导人纷纷来到硅谷的现象并不新奇。沃尔特•艾萨克森2011年在乔布斯的传记中写道,另一位法国总统弗朗索瓦•密特朗1984年年也造访过硅谷。当时,他的妻子丹尼尔并没有探讨科技问题,而是尖刻地就加班工资和假期之类的员工福利问题向史蒂夫•乔布斯发问。硅谷崛起前,外国领导人会访问“铁锈地带”(指美国东北部各州,东起俄亥俄州,西至艾荷华州,北至密歇根州的地区。它们曾经是美国的传统制造业中心——译注)的工厂。如今,他们怀着同样的目的,只是迅速发展的行业已经不同以往了。

硅谷的领袖有时会对所受的关注投桃报李。他们出国时,往往会受到热烈的欢迎。Facebook董事长马克•扎克伯格2012年去日本时会见了日本首相安倍晋三。而去年,他和首席运营官谢丽尔•桑德伯格都会见了韩国总统朴槿惠。

会见并不总是礼节性的,有时也会达成真正的商业外交。去年在巴黎与奥朗德的一次联席会议上,谷歌的施密特签署协议,承诺谷歌公司将提供8,000万美元帮助法国媒体公司进行在线展示。此前,法国的新闻媒体曾指控谷歌在搜索结果中显示了他们作品的片段,涉嫌窃取他们的内容,而这份协议则达成了彼此之间的和解。

硅谷的领袖又能得到什么回报呢?很多。一旦这些国家的政府就知识产权、移民、许可之类的问题起草法案时,这些身居高位的朋友们就能帮上大忙。实质性的商业交易至少在短期内不会时常发生。但会面有时会让沟通变得更顺畅。

斯坦福大学前教务长米勒这样评论首席执行官们的想法:“大家有一种感觉,如果世界上的其他地方正在变得更好,我们也能变得更好。它并不是竞争,而是合作。如今的产品创新已经不再局限于某一个地方了。”(财富中文网)



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