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Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang on Jack Ma relationship before succession

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Earlier this year, Alibaba announced that Zhang would move into the role as chairman of the board in September 2019.

Zhang said that had been planned “for a long time.”

“He tried to convince me to accept this, and we had several times a conversation, but I understand why he decided this, it’s all about the future of Alibaba,” the CEO said.

While Ma has been the public face of the company for a long time, Zhang, who does not often appear in front of media, has been a key figure behind the company’s transition into mobile and its so-called New Retail strategy.

He joined the company in 2007 as chief financial officer of Taobao Marketplace and general manager of Taobao Mall, which later became TMall. Both are key products in Alibaba’s e-commerce portfolio. He was the architect of the company’s huge annual shopping event called called Singles Day. He’s also been a key driver of Alibaba’s online-to-offline strategy, which looks to merge online shopping with brick-and-mortar stores.

Zhang is viewed by analysts as a safe pair of hands because of his achievements at the company, but reaction to the succession news has not been uniformly positive. Alibaba’s stock dropped on the day of the news announcement and some media outlets ran articles saying Ma was a tough act to follow.

But Zhang said he just focuses on doing the best job he can and tries to “forget about the pressure.”

“Try everything you can for the best results — and of course you need a little bit of luck,” Zhang told CNBC.

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Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro gives American diplomats 72 hours to leave

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday he was breaking diplomatic relations with the United States, after the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s interim president.

Speaking to supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, socialist leader Maduro said he would give U.S. diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, which is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

Earlier Wednesday, the Trump administration ratcheted up pressure on Maduro on Wednesday, announcing U.S. recognition of Guaido as interim president and signaling potential new sanctions against its vital oil sector.

With street protests against Maduro underway across Venezuela, Trump said the United States recognized Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled Congress, as the country’s leader and called socialist Maduro’s government “illegitimate.”

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said in a statement, encouraging other governments in the Western Hemisphere to also recognize Guaido.

The administration had been waiting to issue its announcement after Guaido had been sworn in as the country’s temporary president on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Venezuelan opposition sympathizers had been urging Guaido to assume the presidency since Maduro was inaugurated to a second term on Jan. 10 following a widely boycotted election last year that the United States and many other foreign governments described as a fraudulent.

Guaido, a newcomer on the national scene who was elected to head Congress on Jan. 5, had said earlier he was willing to replace Maduro if he had the support of the military, with the aim of then calling for free elections.

U.S. officials in recent days had stated openly that Maduro no longer had a legitimate claim on power.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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UAE favors global cooperation amid China’s rising tech dominance

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is not worried about China’s rising dominance in the technology sector, according to the country’s artificial intelligence minister.

It comes at a time of widespread concern over Chinese tech giant Huawei. The world’s largest telecom equipment maker is facing restrictions from several national governments, amid heightened fears its products could be used for spying.

Huawei has always insisted it follows regulations wherever it operates.

“We are a very collaborative country, we have worked with everyone from everywhere on earth,” the UAE’s Omar bin Sultan Al Olama told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Word Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Wednesday.

“I believe that every country has something for us to learn from, every country has an angle that we can work with them on. I also believe that there needs to be a continuous global dialogue on how we can leverage technology (and) how we can work together,” he added.

China has openly declared its intent to become a world tech leader over the next decade, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in technologies like AI and autonomous vehicles.

Several western governments have expressed concerned about ties between tech giant Huawei and the Chinese government.

“We need to ensure that the playground globally for every citizen anywhere on earth is a fair playing field,” Al Olama said.

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German minister Spahn says Berlin will invest to overcome economic issues

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Germany will take a new approach to its economic policy amid “struggles” and “headwinds,” the country’s health minister told CNBC Wednesday in Davos.

There are growing concerns about the state of the German economy after some recent disappointing data prompted fears of a recession. Earlier this month, the Federal Statistics Office said that Germany grew 1.5 percent in 2018. In 2017, it grew 2.2 percent. The recent numbers showed the weakest growth rate in five years.

“We are still in a very, very good shape economically,” Jens Spahn, minister of health for Germany told CNBC at the World Economic Forum.

“As always after very good years there might be some struggles, some headwinds ahead. And that is what we see right now,” Spahn, who previously worked in the German finance ministry said.

“Now actually we need to support growth…we want to cut taxes, for example, we want to invest more in infrastructure, into the digitization of the society, broadband, 5G, and the health sector,” he added.

Over the last couple of years, Germany has been criticized for its budget surplus at a time when the rest of Europe was struggling. There were repeated calls, including from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), arguing that Berlin should spend more.

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