Tencent CEO Ma Huateng said Tencent can answer the central government’s calls for industrial digitalization by serving as the country’s “digitalization assistant”. Speaking at the inaugural Digital China Summit in Fuzhou on Sunday, Ma said the summit brings the opportunity to help more people across the digital divide and make breakthroughs in core technologies, against the backdrop of the seven-year US export ban on components for ZTE.

In a letter to the Digital China Summit (the “Digital China Construction Summit” in Chinese), Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the development of new driving forces in the economy through informatization, to promote new development and make new achievements.

Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, said that Tencent hopes to respond to the central government’s new instructions on promoting the digitization of the industry through “1357”. 1 is 1 project, to become the digitalization assistant for all industries; 3 is the three roles of connector, toolbox and ecosystem builder; 5 is the five remits of civic services, consumption, manufacturing services, health and environmental protection; and 7 refers to the seven tools of public accounts, mini programs, mobile payments, social media advertising, safety capabilities and something referred to as big-smart-cloud: big data, AI capabilities and cloud computing.

The concept of “craftsman spirit” was an idea of premier Li Keqiang in 2016 as a way to increase the quality of Chinese manufacturing. Last year Tencent styled itself as a “technology+culture” company as it continues to adapt its image.

Ma Huateng’s arch rival, Alibaba’s Ma Yun or Jack Ma was also forthcoming on his views about core technology at the summit: “It is the compelling obligation for big companies to compete in core technology,” said Jack Ma according to the South China Morning Post. “A real company is not determined by its market value or market share, but how much responsibility it takes and whether it has mastered core and key technologies.”

The recent ban on US exports to the Chinese telecom manufacturing giant ZTE has led to debate as to why China is so dependent on foreign technology and manufacturers, and also whether this could in fact be a great opportunity for China to develop its own.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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