CES 2024: Chinese tech giants Alibaba, ByteDance lead China’s return to premier consumer electronics show in Las Vegas

CES 2024: Chinese tech giants Alibaba, ByteDance lead China’s return to premier consumer electronics show in Las Vegas

CES 2024: Chinese tech giants Alibaba, ByteDance lead China’s return to premier consumer electronics show in Las Vegas

Chinese companies have returned to Las Vegas for CES in full force this year, with more than double the number of exhibitors compared with last year, including big names like ByteDance and Alibaba.com, as companies try to shake off Covid-era blues with overseas growth.
CES lists 1,115 companies registered from China on its website, a 126 per cent increase over the 493 listed at the beginning of the 2023 show. That does not include many of the biggest names on the list, which joined using international addresses.
ByteDance and its subsidiary TikTok, along with big hardware brands from last year like TCL and Lenovo are registered under their US offices. Even Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post, has a presence through its subsidiary Alibaba.com Singapore.

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“You have big exhibitors coming back, really showcasing that this is a platform that really pushes for consumers and enterprises and maybe [can] combat some of these major challenges that we’re facing,” Brian Comiskey, director of consumer programmes at the CTA, said after his opening remarks on Sunday afternoon.

This marks a stark reversal from 2023, when China had just started to reopen its borders but restrictions did not fall fast enough for many companies to make it to the show in the first week of January.

“Some of the largest Chinese companies that have signed up for participation this year … will all have a large presence at the show,” John Kelley, vice-president and show director for CES at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), told the Post in an interview on November 29. “But where we’re really seeing growth on the Chinese side is smaller companies.”

Kelley said the CTA was anticipating numbers to reach pre-Covid levels, and it looks like the show has pulled it off. The number of Chinese companies is more than the 1,000 that state-run tabloid Global Times reported for the 2020 show. CTA said the show has attracted around 4,000 exhibitors, although numbers are not final yet. Kelley said CES expects to see 130,000 attendees.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to be the major trend at the show this year, playing an even larger role since ChatGPT ignited a generative AI arms race over the past year. Smart homes, green tech and electric vehicles were other areas highlighted during the show’s opening remarks to the media.

Alibaba was highlighted as one of the exhibitors using machine learning platforms to “power e-commerce”.

Shenzhen-based smart lighting company Govee is integrating generative AI to allow users to create specific moods. Photo: Matt Haldane

Even much smaller companies are touting their use of AI. Govee, a smart lighting maker from Shenzhen, is advertising the use of generative AI to help people create specific moods, like asking for a backdrop that is evocative of the Hong Kong skyline or Barbie Dreamhouse.

Some fabless chip design firms are also exhibiting, such as Fuzhou-based mobile chip maker Rockchip and Wuhan-based autonomous driving chip maker Black Sesame, which contracts with electric car companies Geely and BYD. Black Sesame chips are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, it said.

Xpeng is among the major electric vehicle makers at the show, where it will be demonstrating its new “flying car”, the AeroHT.

XPeng is showcasing its AeroHT flying car at CES 2024. Photo: Handout
The return of Chinese tech giants comes even as geopolitical tensions have barely budged from where they were last year. US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping may have met in November, but there have been no major policy shifts around escalating restrictions on technology such as semiconductors and AI.

TikTok and its Beijing-based owner ByteDance have been under intense political scrutiny in Washington over data privacy and national security concerns. This may not have deterred TikTok from showing up to the largest consumer electronics shows in its largest market.

Number of Chinese tech firms at CES 2023 less than half of pre-pandemic level

Representatives from the company will join two panels at the show to discuss sports and entertainment. Beyond entertainment, though, ByteDance makes much of its money through advertising and has been trying to grow its e-commerce business.

Other Chinese companies cannot exhibit at the show even if they want to because they have been listed on Washington’s Entity List. This includes the world’s largest drone maker DJI and a number of semiconductor companies.

“From a show management perspective, we welcome participation from every company,” CTA’s Kelley said. “As a US-based trade association, we cannot allow participation if they are on some sort of Entity List. That’s really the only place where we will not allow participation.”

Still, CES may be more important for the many small firms that make up the bulk of the show’s exhibition floor. It remains the premier event of its kind.

“We like to make the case that the four days you spend in Las Vegas is some of the most efficient use of your time in the sense that you don’t have to necessarily travel the world to meet with individual business partners on six different continents,” said Kelley. “Instead, you can come to Las Vegas and meet everybody that you need to meet from the global technology industry over the course of a week.”

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