One man was conspicuously absent from the 2005 China Internet Summit in Hangzhou held at the weekend. As top executives of Yahoo and mainland internet giants Tencent Holdings, NetEase.com, Sohu.com, Sina.com and Alibaba gathered to hobnob with former United States president Bill Clinton, the chair reserved for Baidu chief executive Robin Li Yanhong remained empty. There was no explanation for the non-attendance of the newest member of an exclusive club of Nasdaq-listed mainland internet companies and there was barely a mention of Baidu's spectacular initial public offering last month, which sent it soaring from its offering price of US$27 to US$153.94 on day two of trading. The only reference to Baidu came from Alibaba chief executive and organiser of the summit Jack Ma, who said: 'The share price for Baidu was not a rational one and it shouldn't have gone up so much.' Baidu is trading around US$96. Although they did not say so, the other chief executives clearly felt the same way. In fact, the verdict on Wall Street and its collective cognitive ability was damning throughout the summit. Judging from the experiences of the five mainland 'internet hero' chief executives - as they were referred to throughout the rather self-congratulatory summit - Mr Li was probably busy coming to terms with the unreasonable demands and inexplicable ignorance of his new shareholders. 'My biggest mistake was following the advice of Wall Street,' said William Ding Lei, founder of Netease and China's richest man in 2003. He said western analysts and investors had no understanding of the mainland market or Chinese thinking. 'They use American methods to deal with Chinese problems. It is very hard and a tiring experience having to deal with them.' Bowing to pressure from shortsighted investors only concerned about quarterly results caused him to make big mistakes. The company he founded in 1997 has had a turbulent ride. From a US$15.50 Nasdaq debut just before the internet bubble burst in 2000, he watched his shares plummet to a low of 53UScents and saw his company delisted in September 2001 following allegations it had filed a false report of its 2000 revenue. From its relisting at 95 cents a share in January 2002, the company eventually rocketed to US$70 in 2003, which made Mr Ding the richest man in China thanks to his 58.5 per cent stake. Today Netease trades at US$77. It may seem like spectacular ingratitude to be spitting venom at the money tree, but he's done very well despite, not because of, directives from New York. 'He has fought with Wall Street repeatedly and always been proven right,' said one long-time internet analyst. He said the money Mr Ding poured into an online game development centre in Guangzhou enabled him to capitalise on the Asian gaming phenomenon, and his resistance to Wall Street advice to move to fee-based e-mail helped him build up a massive user base for those games. 'The analysts were appalled when he made moves to get out of [short message services],' the observer said. But once again Mr Ding triumphed when the mobile carriers decided to take a bigger piece of the pie. Charles Zhang Chaoyang, chief executive of Sohu, said, '[Wall Street's] understanding of their own markets is right maybe 50 per cent of the time when it comes to stocks like Yahoo and Microsoft. With China they are right maybe 10 per cent of the time.' Mr Zhang probably has more animosity towards the street right now, considering shares in his company are trading at around US$17, down from their historical 2003 highs of more than US$50 a share. 'If you listen to them you won't survive,' he said. 'They aren't here in China and they don't really know anything about our companies.' So far Mr Ma has resisted the allure of Nasdaq riches and said it would be at least a year before he exposed himself to the demands of Wall Street. Now he is working out how to spend the US$1 billion he received from Yahoo for a 40 per cent stake in his company. According to one European fund manager, there is immense pressure from the investment banking community on mainland internet companies to merge and acquire each other. 'The investment bankers aren't driven by the success of the firm but by the size of the deal,' he said. Although his fund has not invested in any mainland internet companies yet, he is looking for opportunities and used his time at the weekend summit to meet with all five of the internet heroes. This particular fund manager does not speak a word of Chinese and has just a rudimentary grasp of the country and its internet market. Listening to his plans for investment in the sector, it became easier to comprehend the frustration felt by Mr Zhang, Mr Ding and Mr Ma. 'Sohu and Sina look weaker in terms of ownership and management. I know Charles Zhang is a rock star in China but his attitude seemed contrived,' the fund manager said. An interesting basis for a multimillion dollar investment decision.