China’s humbled tech tycoons pledge allegiance to Xi’s vision

NEW DELHI: China’s embattled tech tycoons lined-up to pledge their support for President Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” policy and market-roiling regulatory onslaught on the digital sector, at the country’s annual internet conference.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s chief executive officer Daniel Zhang and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s senior vice president Guo Kaitian on Sunday voiced their backing for Xi’s flagship goal to narrow the country’s wealth gap, at the World Internet Conference hosted in the resort town of Wuzhen from September 26 to 28.
Xiaomi Corp’s co-founder Lei Jun said on the same day that technology companies should help close the digital divide and boost small and medium-sized enterprises, two of Beijing’s long-standing policy pursuits.
The summit comes as China’s tech giants weather immense regulatory upheaval on everything from online gaming to data ownership and overseas financing.
Alibaba and Tencent-backed food delivery giant Meituan and ride-hailing app Didi Global Inc are all under investigation.

The campaign to rein in tech came after Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma chastised regulators for stifling innovation last October, illustrating the importance of not challenging government policy at a public forum.
Eric Jing, chairman and CEO of Ant Group Co, said on Sunday the recent slew of new policy guidelines for the internet were “important and timely, and a reminder for us in the industry not to be distracted by competition, but to return to the original intent of the internet instead.”
He also espoused the benefits of the blockchain, saying the technology “can provide a solid foundation of trust for industry collaboration” and called attendees to “contribute to the country’s inclusive and sustainable development.”
Xi launched China’s annual internet summit in 2014 to much fanfare, and in previous years industry stars such as Apple Inc’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai flew in to hobnob with Chinese apparatchiks.
Strict pandemic border controls have limited in-person networking opportunities at recent events, with US industry leaders this year paying heed to China’s economic and social goals via video.
Tesla Inc’s Elon Musk commended China’s new regulations to strengthen data management, saying in a video message that his company localizes its China data.
Qualcomm Inc’s Cristiano Amon praised the speed of China’s 5G rollout and urged US and Chinese companies to collaborate more, while Cisco Systems Inc’s Chuck Robbins spoke about aligning with Xi’s vision of a shared cyberspace community for the benefit of all.
The Cybersecurity Administration of China, the agency at the forefront of China’s tech crackdown and organizer of the conference, was also represented.
“Data should serve the people,” said Sheng Ronghua, vice minister of the CAC. “We should promote information, resources, and outcomes sharing in the digital industry.”
Founded in 2011, the once low-profile watchdog — which operates under the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission chaired by Xi — shot to prominence this year, setting new rules that mandates CAC approval for any company that wants to go public abroad, if it has more than 1 million users.
Chinese authorities have also warned in recent months against the disorderly expansion of capital in platform economies and required Ant to undergo a “rectification” program after the surprise halt of what was set to be the world’s largest IPO.
In recent weeks, Ant agreed to share data from its small loans service with the Chinese central bank’s credit reference center, and is said to be creating a separate app for its loans business and bringing in state-backed investors.

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