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Amid tensions over hacking allegations ahead of Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the U.S., Beijing is now reportedly organizing a tech conference in Seattle on September 23rd to show off its tech prowess.

According to the New York Times, who cited unnamed sources, some of the biggest names in Chinese and American tech are expected to attend, including Alibaba’s Jack ma, Apple’s Tim Cook and Robin Li from Baidu. Representatives from Uber, Google, IBM and Facebook have also been invited to the forum which is co-hosted by Microsoft.

The meeting will be headed by China’s ‘Internet Czar’, Lu Wei, who is responsible for deciding the extent of restrictions on foreign tech companies. It is worth noting that a number of the invited companies are currently struggling to have such restrictions lifted.

It was revealed this week that Google, whose services have been progressively blocked in China since 2010, is seeking to introduce a ‘China-friendly’ version of their Play Store in China this fall, marking progress with censors.

Uber has also come close to clashing with the Chinese government over banned ride-sharing models, while Facebook remains blocked in the country, despite efforts to target cross-border businesses. Apple will also be keen to maintain a health relationship with Chinese regulators, with CEO Tim Cook praising China sales.

Following a series of recent data hacks, tension over tech remains high between China and the U.S. ahead of Xi’s visit this month. The possibility of sanctions are hanging over the Chinese leader’s head after data was stolen from the U.S. Office of Personal Management this year, including the personal records of over 20 million American workers. The Chinese ambassador has already publicly warned against sanctions ahead of Xi’s visit.

While it’s not clear whether the high-profile tech event is a means of retaliating against possible sanctions, it certainly highlights possible tension points between the U.S. government and U.S. tech giants. Tech will likely become a major bargaining chip in China’s soft-power arsenal, with billions of dollars at stake for U.S. businesses who do not comply with Chinese demands and restrictions.

@CateCadell

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