The annual meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the advisory Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) being held this week are most important for the windows they provide into the government’s economic targets and policy priorities in the coming year.
But the so-called “two sessions” meetings also enable some top private enterprise executives who are members of the two bodies to present recommendations for policy directions publicly. This year, airing perspectives from tech industries were founders of Tencent, Baidu, NetEase, Xiaomi, and Geely. Their recommendations perhaps won’t be taken up by government authorities this year but might merit serious official consideration in future years.
Risky new technologies
In his ninth year as an NPC delegate, Pony Ma, founder and CEO of Tencent, urged more emphasis on the digitalization of pillar industries, standardized processes, and customized support for specialized high-tech enterprises. He also warned about the market risks inherent in the emerging sectors of the metaverse, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and Web 3.
With regulatory risks remaining a major concern for tech giants, the billionaire’s comments largely aligned with the government’s bigger picture initiatives ranging from digital transformation to the call for large enterprises to fulfill their social responsibilities and work toward carbon neutrality. Ma made no comments about online gaming, a key revenue source for his company and an area in which many other delegates advocated for harsher regulation.
Ma also called for the government to build a social emergency network for sending disaster warnings and coordinating rescue resources by learning from the flood relief experiences in Henan and Shanxi last year. He suggested mobilizing local groups like community volunteers, food and package delivery workers, and ride-hailing drivers to be trained for natural emergencies.
Green transport and cultural IP
Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu, focused his remarks on autonomous driving and green computation. He urged the government to give more support so China can take the lead in commercializing fully autonomous driving. Specifically, he suggested government support for companies testing autonomous cars without safety drivers, preparing roads for automated cars, and building smart transportation infrastructure.
Li also proposed the creation of more green AI services as a way to achieve China’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060. China should optimize AI algorithms to minimize carbon emissions and develop big models that cut energy consumption. He also recommended public data centers set up ways to measure their carbon emissions.
According to NetEase founder and CEO Ding Lei, building a global intellectual property (IP) platform for exchanging cultural IP, digital video, and musical content should be a national priority. It’s an area that NetEase, the parent of popular music and video streamer NetEase Cloud Music, has already tapped this year with the launch of the beat trading platform BeatSoul in January.
Ding also called for more research on sodium-ion batteries as an alternative to the more popular lithium-ion ones to lower the price of batteries. In addition, recycling and rental services for lithium-ion batteries were also proposed as possible measures to address the issue.
Recycling, recharging, swapping
Lei Jun, co-founder and chairman of Xiaomi, recommended the government improve consumer electronic waste recycling and set unified standards for monitoring carbon emissions of new energy vehicles (NEVs). Not coincidentally, the smartphone maker made plans to build its own electric vehicles last year.
Lei called to consolidate three core processes (trading of used products, reproducing, and scrap dismantling) into one recycling system. Government should pay more attention to safeguarding former owners’ privacy in the recycling process, Lei said, by setting up third-party organizations to erase personal data found in second-hand devices.
Lei urged the government to build high-voltage fast-charging stations for NEVs on a large scale. He also suggested the government build a national platform to help different companies jointly develop fast charging and other essential techs.
Li Shufu, founder and chairman of automaker Geely, proposed that battery-swapping stations be built across the country, so more people could adopt NEVs without worrying about finding charging stations.
Li called for regulators, industry groups, and market players to establish unified and generalized standards for swapping technologies. The government should green light rules to speed up approval for swap stations’ land use and cut red tape involved in getting permits to sell swappable electric vehicles (EVs), Li said.
Although Tesla CEO Elon Musk views battery swapping as an “unlikely” solution and many others worry about the technology’s scaling problems, Chinese companies are jumping into the market in the hope that the service can work at scale in the world’s biggest EV market. Separation of the battery from the vehicle, along with battery-leasing options offered by carmakers, could also reduce the upfront purchase price of EVs, which could increase competitiveness and boost adoption. Beijing showed its support for the technology by defining swap stations as complementary to charging facilities in its “new infrastructure” investment plan for 2020.