Tencent's Ma Tells China to Make Internet More Accessible

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Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chairman And CEO Ma Huateng Attends Annual Earnings Conference

Ma ''Pony'' Huateng.

Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg
  • Billionaire Ma suggests relaxed policy for ditial content
  • Ma Huateng says government should encourage sharing economy

Billionaire Ma Huateng said Chinese regulators should lower the entry barriers for the Internet industry to spur innovation in digital content creation and encourage online health-care reforms.

China should allow doctors to freelance, build online personal medical files, encourage development of the sharing economy, and relax digital content policies to help China’s Internet sector to prosper, Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s chairman said in a statement.

China will this week discuss policy road maps for 2016 at the annual National People’s Congress, a meeting at which Ma is a delegate. A year after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang prompted the nation to “ignite the innovative drive," the startup economy is booming. Venture capitalists poured a record $37 billion into China startups last year, according to London consultancy Preqin Ltd. 

Ma said China should boost investment in network infrastructure and include the sharing economy in government procurement programs. He also recommended the nation improve its statistics for measuring gross domestic product.

China’s Internet users grew to 688 million at the end of last year and 89 percent of Chinese enterprises rely on the Web, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

As Asia’s largest Internet company, Tencent participated in $17.5 billion of announced acquisitions last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Web Security

China has reined in the Internet since President Xi Jinping took power, passing a security law establishing "cybersovereignty," making retweets of rumors a crime and advancing regulations that would let companies in key sectors only use technology deemed “safe and controllable.”

Its Ministry of Public Security said in August it planned to set up “network security offices” at certain websites and Internet companies, Xinhua reported, citing a ministry conference. The government also proposed a cyber-security law to cut Internet access during major public security incidents, according to a statement posted to the NPC.

In February 2014, Xi made himself chairman of a new cyber-security group that has become a central clearing house for technology policy.

In this context, Tencent’s WeChat instant-messaging service has faced some concerns from foreign users about potential censorship by the Chinese government. Ma has been adding features  to WeChat, from microblogging to social networking and e-commerce, in a bid to grow its 650 million monthly global active users.

“We comply with local laws and regulations in local markets. For WeChat, we have different servers in different regions,” Ma told reporters after a conference Thursday. “In China, we follow Chinese laws and regulations. But for overseas WeChat users, they don’t need to worry about that.”

— With assistance by Haixing Jin, and Lulu Chen

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