It’s that time of the year again. Tech executives and government officials from around the world are gathering in the historic water town of Wuzhen in east China for the state-run World Internet Conference (WIC). Meetings and keynotes aside, Ding Lei, the founder and CEO of the twenty-year-old tech conglomerate NetEase, has reportedly been hosting an exclusive dinner gathering the industry’s biggest names since 2014. This year was no exception and Richard Liu of the retail giant JD.com and Wang Xing of the O2O service platform Meituan-Dianping added their own banquet. Chinese media and tech watchers study these dinners closely as they act as indicators of the industry—who’s still relevant, and who’s whose ally. There are three things we can learn from the two dinners this year.

As usual, Ding served the non-GMO black pork harvested from the NetEase Weiyang Farm to his precious guests. Some tech bosses were new to the dinner, such as Gong Yu, founder and CEO of the video streaming platform iQiyi, Cheng Wei, co-founder and CEO of the ride-hailing company Didi-Chuxing, as well as Richard Liu. These new additions, insiders reckon, reflect rising trends in China’s booming tech industry. For instance, JD.com’s presence signals the importance of the new consumer business; iQiyi, the content and pan-entertainment industry; and Didi-Chuxing, the sharing economy.

Ding’s dinner has expanded from nine attendees in 2014 to twenty this year. The gathering first started with tech veterans of the PC era like Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu, Pony Ma, founder and CEO of Tencent, and Charles Zhang, founder and CEO of Sohu. The addition of Lei Jun, the man behind the smartphone manufacturing giant Xiaomi, along with Wang Xing last year, spoke of China’s sprawling mobile-first, mobile-only market.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.