Web bosses go into politics

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A number of big names in China's Internet industry have made their way to the nation's top legislative and advisory bodies as the industry's prominence has grown.

Experts said this will be good for the industry's development in a regulatory sense, even though their influence will not be felt in the short term.

Ma Huateng, chairman and chief executive officer of Internet conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd, is a deputy to the 12th National People's Congress, and Robin Li, chairman and chief executive officer of search engine giant Baidu Inc, is a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The NPC is China's legislature and the CPPCC is the country's top political advisory body.

"It's a good opportunity to explain some problems the Internet industry is faced with," said Ma in an interview during the ongoing two sessions, "but it's no good speaking for just a company, but rather, for the industry and Internet users".

Lei Jun, chief executive officer of smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp, is also a deputy to the 12th NPC. Prior to 2013, Chen Tianqiao, chairman and chief executive officer of game operator Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd, was one of the few that entered the NPC or the CPPCC from the Internet industry.

Internet players' voices will be more easily heard on such a national platform, said Bi Yantao, director of the Center for Communication Studies at Hainan University.

There are limits set for the Internet industry, and it will be good to have more communication channels with decision-makers, said Hong Bo, a Beijing-based IT expert and founder of consultancy company IT5G.

He added that in the United States, lobbying companies that represent different interest groups seek to influence decision-makers. However, "the influence of the new deputies and members will still be limited in the short term", he said.

In his proposals during the two sessions, Tencent's Ma called for government efforts to improve the environment for start-up companies, to list the Internet as a national strategy, and to support Internet players' global expansion. Baidu's Li called for easier access to public Wi-Fi connections while Xiaomi's Lei proposed easier procedures for start-ups.

China has the world's biggest Internet population, with 564 million people accessing the Web by the end of last year.

Its growing Internet population is accompanied by the rapid expansion of various kinds of Internet services, such as e-commerce, advertising, and games. According to US market research company eMarketer, China will become the second-largest business-to-consumer market in the world this year, up from fourth place last year, ranking only after the United States.


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