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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing last month. Photo: Reuters

Xi Jinping urges global tech cooperation as IBM, Intel, Cisco CEOs attend China’s internet conference

  • The Chinese leader issued a congratulatory letter to the World Internet Conference, which also saw the debut of the Communist Party’s new propaganda chief
  • Several American tech executives have attended this year’s event virtually, including the CEOs of IBM, Intel and Cisco
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for global cooperation in the tech sector at the opening of the World Internet Conference (WIC), an annual event that promotes China’s model of cyberspace governance, as the country faces growing challenges from the US to limit its access to advanced technologies.

Hundreds of guests, along with senior government officials and tech business leaders, gathered at an exhibition centre in Wuzhen, the picturesque canal town near Shanghai that has been hosting the event since 2014, to kick off the three-day conference.

Xi, who recently secured an unprecedented third term as China’s leader, issued a congratulatory letter, saying “the international society should strengthen communications and collaborations to cope with the challenges and opportunities brought by digitalisation.”

“Together, we can build a cyberspace that is more fair, open, safe and energetic,” he wrote.

The 2022 World Internet Conference opens in Wuzhen, east China’s Zhejiang Province, on Wednesday. Photo: Xinhua
This year’s WIC, hot on the heels of the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade national congress, saw the event debut of Li Shulei, Xi’s protégé and the party’s newly minted propaganda chief, who is now in charge of enforcing Beijing’s ideology in cyberspace affairs.

“Many people of insight have realised that the current global internet management system still follows imperfect rules and an unreasonable order,” Li said in a speech. “The existing cyberspace governance rules are incapable of reflecting the wishes and interests of most countries.”

Li also brought up a white paper released on Monday by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) – the country’s internet watchdog – which he said is meant to systematically expound China’s contributions in “building a community with a shared future in cyberspace”.
An interactive dance game demonstration during the Light of Internet Expo in Wuzhen on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua

The concept of a “shared future in cyberspace” was first put forward by Xi in 2015, when he attended the WIC’s opening ceremony in person.

“Since Xi proposed [his idea] at the second WIC, the event has been following up on his thoughts every year,” Wu Hequan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering from 2002 to 2010, said on the sidelines of the conference.

However, this year’s event takes place against a backdrop of mounting economic troubles and a tightened regulatory environment in China, along with rising geopolitical tensions with the West.

While the conference has in the past drawn big names from the internet industry at home and abroad, its shine has faded in recent years amid a prolonged regulatory crackdown on Big Tech in China.


AI chip maker ordered by US government to halt exports to China

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A fresh wave of export restrictions introduced by the US in recent months, targeting China’s access to advanced technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence and advanced chips, has also dealt a blow to the industry.
On Monday, the international cooperation head of the CAC criticised US trade sanctions on Huawei Technologies Co and other Chinese tech companies, saying that “certain countries” have abused export control measures to “maliciously block and suppress Chinese enterprises under the pretext of national security”.

With China’s strict Covid-19 controls hindering cross-border travel, several American tech executives have attended this year’s event virtually. They include IBM chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna, Intel Corp CEO Pat Gelsinger, and Cisco Systems chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins, all of whom delivered video messages.

Daniel Zhang Yong, CEO and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding – owner of the South China Morning Post; Xu Lei, CEO of; and Qu Fang, founder of Xiaohongshu, attended the event in person.