Why PR chiefs are running Communist Party branches at China tech firms

Many large tech companies on the mainland have named public relations or human resources experts as party committee heads

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 9:36am

Some major internet companies in China are appointing mid-ranking public relations and human resources specialists to head their Communist Party committees as they try to build closer ties with government.

The approach differs from the case at state firms where the party chief usually heads the company.

Many internet companies on the mainland have set up party committees within their organisations in line with the top party leadership’s desire to strengthen its presence and implementation of its policies in business.

The party heads of 35 Beijing-based tech and internet companies attended a meeting held by the Beijing Internet Association on Friday, reporting their work on party building within their firms.

Reporting on the meeting, Beijing government news portal Qianlong.com, did not disclose all the names of the attendees.

Tech firms displace banks, oil companies as China’s most valuable brands

Many of the party committee heads are in charge of the companies’ public affairs or human resources departments. For example, Yi Zeng, who joined web portal Sohu in 2000, is in charge of the company’s public and government relations. Zhu Guang, who joined search engine giant Baidu in 2008, is in charge of media and government affairs.

Wang Xiang, from Weibo, is the company’s public affairs general manager.

Liu Kaiming, head of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in Shenzhen, said the importance of the party committee in private companies differed from that of their counterparts in state-owned enterprises.

“The party head of a state-owned company is the top leader of the firm,” Liu said.

“But a private or multinational company would only see an internal Communist Party committee as a way to woo local authorities into a closer relationship.

“The party committee of a private company usually does not have great significance in business management.

China's telecoms giants tipped to report mostly downbeat 2016 results

“That’s why you see most private and foreign companies appointing their human resources or PR director to take charge of their internal party committee.”

At the meeting, Zeng said Sohu was launching a campaign to learn the party charter.

Wen Gao, deputy head of the party committee at NetEase, said the total number of the internet company’s party members reached 223 last year, 6.4 times more than the previous year.

In contrast, tech giants that were expanding their business overseas, such as Huawei and ZTE, were keeping their party committees low profile, Liu said.

“It’s not good for building up their international image if they have strong state involvement,” he said.