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Illustration by Michael Hoeweler for TIME

Soft-spoken, boyish, reclusive: the words come up repeatedly in descriptions of Pony Ma. But while the founder of Tencent — the Chinese online giant that combines gaming and e-commerce with the QQ and WeChat messaging services — may have a low-key manner, he’s also an undisputed rock star. At Internet conferences in China, young people mob him, trying to snap selfies. The company he co-founded in 1998 has grown to such heights that Ma’s name is routinely found on all the Chinese equivalents of the TIME 100 list. But he hasn’t just built a successful business. In China’s unique cultural landscape — from its mobile-savvy population to its one-child families — he has tapped into something timeless and universal: a longing for connection.

Huffington’s latest book is Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

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