China’s ‘two sessions’: Tencent boss Pony Ma makes his mark in key Beijing political gala with new proposals
- The Tencent founder and CEO calls for more scrutiny on China’s internet economy
- Ma makes his first public appearance since August 2019 at an NPC debate with other Guangdong delegates
Pony Ma Huateng, founder and CEO of Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, has filed a slew of proposals to the National People’s Congress (NPC), giving him a high-profile presence among the nearly 3,000 delegates who are expected to take part in the annual parliamentary gathering this week.
Ma, who has been a delegate since 2013, has called for “strict scrutiny” of peer-to-peer lending, bike-sharing, apartment rentals and community group buying to better protect the security of user funds, according to reports by Chinese official media.
The billionaire founder, who also submitted a few proposals last year but did not attend the key political session in person citing health issues, has also suggested this year that Chinese authorities conduct state-sponsored trials in online education, internet health care, fintech and other industries to shore up China’s lead in digital business models over the US and Europe, according to China National Radio.
Tencent did not answer queries about whether Ma will personally show up in Beijing this year, noting that he submitted the proposals in a personal capacity rather than on behalf of the company.
The annual full session of the NPC will officially start on Friday, when delegates are expected to sit in the capital’s Great Hall of the People to listen to Premier Li Keqiang deliver the government’s work report. The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory session, began on Thursday. The twin meetings are informally dubbed the “two sessions”.
On Thursday evening, the Nanfang Daily published a report showing pictures and a video of Ma attending a debate with other NPC delegates from Guangdong. This marks the first time Ma has made a public appearance since August 2019.
The news app run by the official Nanfang Daily published a report on Thursday evening, showed pictures and a video of Ma attending a debate with dozens of other Guangdong delegates for the National People‘s Congress in a meeting room. Ma, wearing a red badge of delegate and white shirt, has asked other delegates to sign on his proposals, according to the report. It marked the first time for Ma to show up in public since August 2019.
Despite being out of sight, Ma has continued to perform his duties as the head of China’s most-valued technology company. At a high-end award ceremony for scientists sponsored by the Tencent Foundation last November, Ma sent a congratulatory audio message. In December, Ma published a preface for an internal journal.
Ma’s NPC proposals this year also cover the issue of job creation in the new economy. He suggested providing online courses and consultation services for people struggling with employment. On environmental issues, he called on private companies to take up greater responsibilities in achieving carbon neutrality.
Ma also joined other tech delegates in advising on rural-related issues, proposing further skill training for farmers and local officials in agricultural technology and e-commerce, as well as the use of digital technology to look after children and grandparents who are left behind in rural villages by workers migrating to urban areas.
Another NPC delegate and founder of electronics retailer Suning.com Zhang Jindong also proposed measures to upgrade consumption in rural areas by turning to e-commerce and other technologies.
While tech leaders only make up a tiny percentage of delegates at the two sessions, the importance of technology as the country’s emerging economic engine has put their participation in the spotlight. Robin Li Yanhong, founder of search giant Baidu and a CPPCC delegate since 2013, has called for legislation on the commercial use of autonomous driving, enhancement in education and training in artificial intelligence, and the use of technology for elderly care.