TO SEE THE world of technology shift before your eyes, look at the short history of the Shanghai Stock Exchange Science and Technology Innovation Board. China’s president, Xi Jinping, unveiled plans for the new exchange, modelled on New York’s Nasdaq and known as the STAR Market, in November 2018. It was to be a freer route to capital markets for Chinese tech firms. It opened in July 2019 with 25 companies and rocketing valuations. A year later, on July 23rd, the exchange launched an index of its 50 biggest companies.
A few months ago most people had never heard of the STAR Market or its firms. The most valuable was AMEC, a low-key Chinese manufacturer of chipmaking tools with a market capitalisation of around 100bn yuan ($14bn). Other big members, which make semiconductors (Montage Technology), office software (Kingsoft) or railway electronics (China Railway Signal & Communication), were mostly anonymous to Western ears.
That all changed in July. First, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) listed its shares on the board, raising $6.5bn from the offering. A week later Ant Group, the payments arm of Alibaba, China’s e-commerce titan, said it would also list shares there (as well as in Hong Kong). Ant may be the most valuable private company on Earth, valued at $150bn or so. That flotation…