On Tuesday, China’s top political advisory body held a consultation session to discuss digital economy development with leaders from the country’s private sector firms. Baidu CEO Robin Li and NetEase CEO Ding Lei attended the meeting and made proposals. Vice Premier Liu He emphasized support for a healthy platform economy, the country’s private sector, and overseas listings. 

Why it matters: Industry observers believe the anticipated meeting is a barometer for whether the country will loosen the crackdown on the tech sector that began in late 2020 and accelerated last summer. Despite the lack of an apparent reference to the crackdown, the meeting supported a healthy platform economy and the private sector, which can be read as a sign that the crackdown will ease. 

Details: The meeting re-emphasized many of the goals previously put forth in long-term economic plans, including optimizing data management and the trade of data, the facilitation of a national data center system, the continued construction of an industrial internet to help with smart manufacturing and more. Baidu’s Robin Li proposed that the government should consider loosening restrictions for companies to test autonomous cars, while NetEase’s Ding Lei proposed a wider adoption of China’s digital yuan. 

  • Wang Yang, China’s top political advisor and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), hosted the meeting. 
  • Vice Premier Liu He also attended and addressed the meeting. According to state news agency Xinhua, Liu said “the country should support the sustained and healthy development of the platform economy and private sector” and encouraged platform companies to participate in major national science and technology projects. Liu also stressed support for “the listing of digital companies in the capital markets at home and abroad,” for which he first showed support in a March 16 high-level government meeting
  • Robin Li, CEO of Baidu and a member of the CPPCC, proposed that government should speed up the digitization of China’s infrastructure and relax policies to allow companies to better test autonomous driving. For example, Li said artificial intelligence could help cut down costs on the country’s flood control system. 
  • Ding Lei, CEO of NetEase and a member of the CPPCC, suggested more comprehensive promotion and adoption of the digital yuan, such as using it to pay for utilities, buy stocks, and pay for daily deliveries. 
  • More than 100 delegates attended the meeting, of which 29 experts and CPPCC members addressed the meeting directly. Delegates attended the meeting virtually as well as in-person. 

Context: In February, the CPPCC held a videoconference meeting with firms in Hangzhou to discuss how to grow digital economies. That meeting was held in preparation for the meeting this week. 

Qin is the managing editor at TechNode. Previously, she was a reporter at the South China Morning Post's Inkstone. Before that, she worked in the United States for five years. She was a senior video producer...