China’s ‘two sessions’ 2024: Beijing should restore confidence in internet sector to propel growth, tech delegate says

China’s ‘two sessions’ 2024: Beijing should restore confidence in internet sector to propel growth, tech delegate says

China’s ‘two sessions’ 2024: Beijing should restore confidence in internet sector to propel growth, tech delegate says

02:40

Chinese Premier Li Qiang delivers his first work report amid concerns about state of the economy

Chinese Premier Li Qiang delivers his first work report amid concerns about state of the economy

China should formulate regulatory policies in a “scientific” manner, while ensuring consistency in implementation, Zhou said in a comment ahead of the legislative sessions that kicked off on Monday, according to Chinese media, the Economic Observer.

Various government departments have rolled out measures and regulations to shore up support for private sector growth, but they sometimes contradict and “cancel out” each other, Zhou was cited as saying.

Some regulations even triggered negative public response and created a highly adverse impact on industry development, Zhou said, according to the report.

Beijing last year finally relaxed its years of stringent regulatory scrutiny of the Chinese tech industry, which had wiped trillions of dollars from the valuations of the country’s Big Tech firms.

As the country moved past Covid-era restrictions and tried to get its economy back into gear, the government has mostly showered the industry with positive messaging and favourable policy support.

However, China’s video gaming industry – the second-largest in the world – suffered a huge blow last December, when the National Press and Publication Administration proposed to rein in excessive spending on video games.

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To boost tech innovation, Zhou also advocated a “no crime without law” approach, suggesting that regulators should adopt a hands-off policy when internet platform firms venture into new territories, unless those areas have been explicitly declared illegal.

In the past few years, China sought to rein in antitrust practices and what it saw as the “disorderly expansion of capital”. The crackdown kneecapped the nations’ tech champions and inhibited their ambitions.

Throughout 2023, Big Tech firms from e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the Post, to video gaming leader Tencent Holdings, further cut their external investments amid a challenging economy.

Total investment deals made by Alibaba, Tencent and search engine operator Baidu plunged nearly 40 per cent last year, data from information service provider ITJuzi shows. Tencent, known for its expansive holdings in the Chinese internet sector, saw the largest reduction in deals.

Zhou Yuan, founder and CEO of Chinese question-and-answer forum Zhihu. Photo: Handout

While regulators are done clamping down on internet platforms, they have yet to figure out how to support the sector, according to a research note from think tank Trivium last week.

Still, analysts at Trivium noted that legislative proposals, such as the one submitted by Zhou, along with the draft Private Economy Promotion Law, signal that policymakers are in active discussion about how to boost the platform economy.

Zhou also urged the government to include more internet platform companies in its science and tech innovation initiatives, offering firms additional resources and funding to stimulate their drive for innovation.

His appeal echoes the government work report delivered by Premier Li Qiang on Tuesday, which reiterated the government’s pledge to support internet platforms to “fully display abilities” in driving innovation, creating employment and competing globally.

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