Tech titans flock to Beijing as year’s most important political meetings begin

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At the forefront of political discussions this year in Beijing, a few key themes stand out: artificial intelligence, 5G and US-Sino relations.

Considered the largest event on the Chinese political calendar, China’s annual meeting of top legislative and political advisers, dubbed the Two Sessions, kicked off Sunday in Beijing.

More than 3,000 delegates from the two bodies—the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body—will attend the plenary sessions over the coming two weeks.

A number of founders from Chinese leading internet companies flocked to the capital for the annual review and planning of government work. Some tech titans have been members of the two political bodies for years, among them Tencent’s Pony Ma, Baidu’s Robin Li, and Xiaomi’s Lei Jun.

Chinese media Yicai reported that Tencent CEO Pony Ma, who is also a representative of NPC, called on the central government to accelerate the deployment of 5G in China, and pushed for broader adoption of Internet Protocol IPv6, the most updated IP protocol.

More rapid networking services could have a profound impact on a number of sectors in the real economy, including manufacturing, finance, and healthcare, and could serve to bring increased productivity and value-add to China’s digital economy, Yicai report cited Ma as saying.

Xiaomi’s Le Jun, who is also an NPC representative, advocated the promotion of 5G-enabled applications, specifically self-driving and connected vehicles, as well as internet of things (IoT) and data analysis in the public health system on a large-scale basis. Such 5G commercialization would push China’s public transport on a fast track of digital and intelligent transformation, Tencent Tech (in Chinese) cited Lei as saying.

Baidu CEO, Robin Li, who is a CPPCC delegate, asked for projects to be established to pilot intelligent traffic lights and parking services, according to state-owned Securities Daily. Li also urged the central government to participate in top-level discussions of an AI ethics framework

On the issue of Sino-US relations in the field of technology, Hong Kong publication, the SCMP, reported Li as saying that while there was some competition in artificial intelligence between the two nations, there were also plenty of cooperation opportunities. “We do hope the two countries will not engage in a protracted trade war and instead engage in more collaboration and healthy competition,” SCMP cited Li as saying.