China’s Top IT Enterpreneurs Call For Internet Special Zone (Updated)

Shenzhen is holding a summit for leaders in IT. From the Shenzhen Post:

China (Shenzhen) IT Leader Summit 2010, jointly hosted by Shenzhen Municipal Government and E-China Alliance will be held at Shenzhen Wuzhou Guest House on March 28 and over 80 leaders of the top corporations in China will participate, according to the press conference held by the host. Member of the Municipal Party Committee and Executive vice Mayor of Shenzhen, Xu Qin and Chairman of E-China Alliance, Wu Ying attended the Conference.

According to the introduction, the IT Summit this year will exceed that of last year on specifications, scale and highlights and over 80 influential and appealing CEOs of IT corporations, investors and relevant representatives of international association will participate. Currently, 36 guests including Chairman of Alibaba Group Ma Yun, Board Chairman of Tencent Ma Huateng, CEO of Baidu Li Yanhong, Board Chairman of Yaxin Group Ding Jian and President of TCL Li Dongsheng have been confirmed for participation and four of them will make a speech.

During the summit, four leading Internet entrepreneurs, Ma Huateng, founder and Board Chairman of Tencent; Ding Jian, founder and CEO of AsiaInfo; Wang Weijia, founder and CEO of MTone Wireless Corp; and Wang Zhidong, founder and former CEO of Sina.com.cn publicly expressed their discomfort with the current Internet control and management system. Netease posted an article about their criticisms, which has now been deleted from the site.

The following comments were made by Ding Jian at the summit. Ding was the founder of AsiaInfo, which helped to bring the Internet to China (translated by CDT).

“互联网在深圳可以完全放开,不要防火墙过滤,应该看看再更加自由的环境里,互联网是更乱了还是怎么样,这样才可能探索出一个适合中国的互联网监管方式。”
“The Internet in Shenzhen can be completely open, with no Firewall filtering.  We should find out whether in a freer environment, the Internet will be more chaotic or not. Only this way, can we explore an Internet supervision and management model with Chinese characteristics.”

Chang Ping, one of China’s most influential social commentators and former News Director of Southern Weekend, wrote the following on FT Chinese, translated by CDT:

[Ding's] appeal revealed an obvious, but often ignored message, which is that strict information control is suffocating the future of the Internet industry.  Although the Chinese government has condemned Google for politicizing a business problem, when China’s official media talks about this event, they basically all use political language and political logic.  This is hardly surprising; the issue of information freedom is a political issue; it is impossible not to politicize it. In fact, everything a government does is politics.  However, in this discussion, the development of the Internet industry was not mentioned. As Mr. Wang Weijia pointed out: in this Internet strike hard campaign, hundreds of thousands of websites have been closed, and it is possible that potential future giants, like today’s Alibaba, Tencent, or Baidu, are being killed as well.

Under the long period of authoritarian rule, the following concept is popular in Chinese society: politics is not my business, I am only a bystander.  More to the point, the Chinese government has been seeking such a path: strictly controlling politics, while being tolerant in economics.  This is feasible to a certain degree.  But if we just take one step back, we will discover that the creativity of a society is its integral unity.  If one board in a barrel is short, then the whole barrel will leak. [...]

The complaints of these gentlemen makes us see this even more clearly: the Google event is not what China’s domestic mainstream media misleadingly says it is: that it’s just the Chinese government vs. an American company, or it is Chinese culture vs. American culture, or it is Chinese vs. American, it is nationalism vs. imperialism.  More importantly, it is a government vs. a company, it is power regulation vs. free market.  In this sense, the victims of excessive control are mainly domestic enterprises.  Google can just walk away, but the domestic corporations can only wish for a “special zone.”

Update: Danwei has translated the article about the executives’ criticisms that was posted, and then deleted, on Netease.