China's internet bigwigs turn to politics
Beijing: China's Internet bigwigs have taken to politics, becoming the deputies of the main legislative body dominated by the ruling Communist Party. Ma Huateng, chairman and the CEO of Internet conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd, has become deputy of the National People's Congress, and Robin Li, the chairman and CEO of search engine giant Baidu Inc, jas joined the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory legislative body.
"It's a good opportunity to explain some problems the Internet industry is faced with," Ma said, adding "but it's no good speaking for just a company, but rather, for the industry and Internet users".
Lei Jun, the CEO of smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp, is also a deputy to the National People's Congress.
Prior to 2013, Chen Tianqiao, chairman and the CEO of game operator Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd, was among few who entered the NPC or the CPPCC from the Internet industry.
Internet players' voices will be more easily heard on such a national platform, said Bi Yantao, director of the Center for Communication Studies at Hainan University.
There are limits set for the Internet industry and it will be good to have more communication channels with decision-makers, Hong Bo, a Beijing-based IT expert and founder of consultancy company IT5G, told state-run China Daily.
In the US, he said, the lobbying companies that represent different interest groups seek to influence decision-makers.
However, "the influence of the new deputies and members will still be limited in the short term", he said.
In his proposals during the two sessions, Tencent's Ma called for government efforts to improve the environment for start-up companies, to list the Internet as a national strategy, and to support Internet players' global expansion.
Li called for easier access to public Wi-Fi connections while Lei proposed easier procedures for start-ups.
China has the world's biggest Internet population, with 564 million people accessing the Web by the end of last year.
Its growing Internet population is accompanied by the rapid expansion of various kinds of Internet services, such as e-commerce, advertising, and games.
According to US market research company eMarketer, China will become the second-largest business-to-consumer market in the world this year, up from fourth place last year, ranking only after the United States.