By Laurie Chen
BEIJING (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings founder Pony Ma and others from China’s crackdown-hit internet sector will not be attending parliamentary sessions this year as Beijing boosts representation from the tech hardware sector, according to report the lists of delegates.
Nearly 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) will gather in Beijing on Sunday for the first meeting since Xi Jinping secured a norm-breaking third leadership term at a ruling Communist Party convention last October.
The composition of the country’s highest legislative body, mostly local government officials but also representatives from other sectors, indicates who is in Beijing’s good graces, although the ultimate barometer of power is the 205-member Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party. stays.
This year saw a new crop of tech hardware sector representatives appear on delegates’ rosters for the first time, a sign of Beijing’s shifting priorities as it looks to bolster its capabilities as Washington cuts off access to advanced technology.
Pony Ma is absent from this year’s list having previously served two five-year terms. The CEO of China’s most valuable company has kept a low profile in recent years as rival tech entrepreneurs have been the target of a broad state crackdown on internet companies and as Xi pushed for increased scrutiny of the ultra-rich.
Tencent did not immediately comment.
Other former darlings of the Chinese internet scene, including Alibaba’s Jack Ma, NetEase founder William Lei Ding, and Wang Xiaochuan, founder of search engine Sogou, were also absent from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) attendee list after earlier inclusion.
However, lower-level executives from Alibaba and e-commerce giant JD Group are delegates to the CPPCC, a largely ceremonial political advisory body that meets around the same time as the NPC.
Newcomers to the events include representatives from chip makers Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), state-backed Hua Hong Semiconductor Ltd, Shandong Youyan Semiconductor Materials Co. in the NPC and Cambricon Technologies Corp. in the CPPCC.
Other new NPC delegates come from robotics, laser, aerospace, and aviation companies.
“The new lineup of the two sessions seems to reveal Beijing’s clear priority to strengthen its technological capacity to become self-sufficient and remain competitive with the United States,” said Angela Zhang, director of the Center for Chinese Law. the University of Hong Kong.
“In the current geopolitical climate, consumer technology companies are being eclipsed by companies producing hardcore technologies,” she said.
Deputies for the NPC and CPPCC are elected every five years by the Communist Party and have the option of resigning.
Some veteran technology industry delegates will continue to serve on the CPPCC under new five-year terms, including Lei Jun, founder of phone maker Xiaomi, and Zhou Hongyi, CEO of cybersecurity company Qihoo360.
Liu Qingfeng, head of the US-sanctioned artificial intelligence company iFlyTek, was also selected for another NPC term.
In a speech last month, Xi called for scientific and technological self-reliance amid growing export restrictions on advanced technology, mainly from the United States.
Some well-known CPPCC delegates were not included in this year’s list, such as Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, film director Feng Xiaogang and state television host Bai Yansong.
Yao Ming, a retired basketball star who heads the Chinese Basketball Association, has moved from the CPPCC to the NPC.
(Reporting by Laurie Chen; additional reporting by Josh Ye in Hong Kong and the Beijing Newsroom; editing by Tony Munroe and Kim Coghill)