Ahead of Xi-Obama summit, Chinese leader to meet Google, Facebook and other US tech firms hurt by China internet censorship

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 6:48pm

Beijing is set to woo American technology firms at a meeting in Seattle on the eve of president Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Washington later this month, despite bilateral ties having been tested by recent allegations of Chinese cyber attacks on the US.

Xi will begin his trip with some public engagements in Seattle on September 22 before moving on to Washington DC and finally the United States General Assembly on September 28.

Leading US technology firms, including Apple, Facebook, IBM and Google have been invited to a meeting with the Chinese delegation in Seattle on September 23. 

The chief executives of Chinese internet firms like Alibaba’s Jack Ma Yun and search engine giant Baidu’s Robin Li, as well as China’s so-called internet Czar Lu Wei, the director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, will also attend, according to The New York Times.

“The meeting is mostly to discuss the industry cooperation of the two countries, and big companies from China and the US, like Google, will all be there,” Zuo Xiaodong, vice-president of the China Information Security Research Insitute told the Times.

Xi will meet Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ahead of his trip to Washington, the report said.

The White House said Obama will raise the issue of China’s flouting of cyber security when he meets Xi. The US claims Chinese hackers stole the personal data of some 4 million federal workers in December, among other charges.

A meeting with top Chinese tech firms and the country’s officials could prove lucrative for the US firms as they seek to build their presence in China, which blocks many foreign social networking and media sites like YouTube and Instagram.

Facebook and Google have long been blocked on the Chinese mainland, which for the most part puts the country’s 649 million internet users out of their reach.

But the activities of foreign internet companies operating there fall within Lu’s jurisdiction, so mending ties or forging partnerships with China could pay dividends. Lu has overseen tightened internet censorship in China, and it his job to ensure that foreign player abide by the rules Beijing lays down.

Yet nothing is set in stone in China, where change can either be glacial or lighting-fast. Google is said to now be in talks with Chinese authorities to make a return to the market with an online app store for Android devices.

The company moved its search service from the mainland to Hong Kong in 2010 after a clash over censorship and a cyber attack targeting Gmail users that was blamed on the Chinese.