China Rules Tech Companies with Velvet-Lined Steel Glove

China President Xi Jinping has been supportive of high tech companies over the past 10 years—particularly since they have built technologies that the government uses to track its own people. But with the tremendous capital amassed by companies like Tencent, Alibaba, WeChat, the government is getting more involved in directing projects for its own purposes, according to a story in The New York Times.

Wang Xiaochuan Photo via Boao Forum for Asia

Quoting Wang Xiaochuan, CEO of Sogou, an internet search company interviewed by Phoenix Satellite Television, the companies can prosper as long as they serve state interests.

“But if it’s in your nature to say, ‘I want freedom, I want to sing a tune different from the state’s, then you might suffer, more so than in the past,” Xiaochuan told the station.

WeChat, similar to Facebook or Twitter, has been used as a tool for monitoring political activists in China. Alibaba helps manage traffic. Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, has allowed authorities to use its technology to monitor crowds at public events., a competitor to Alibaba, is helping government agencies with procurement and logistics systems.

In terms of research, the companies have joined with the government to develop new technology, such as quantum computing and deep learning systems. The government, which once quashed internet use, now uses it for tracking the populace and manage problems.

American companies operating in China can refuse to hand over data, filing lawsuits to prevent it, but Chinese companies are under state rule.

Read more at NYTimes