Few Western tech company CEOs were present on the opening day of China’s annual World Internet Forum on Wednesday, as the growing tensions between China and the West and Beijing’s restrictive internet policies led to many giving the event a miss.
The Forum, an event launched four years ago by President Xi Jinping to promote China’s alternative vision for global internet governance, hosted a thinned-out crowd of industry experts and leaders on its opening day in Wuzhen, Bloomberg reports.
The CEOs of Google and Apple, who attended and gave headline speeches at last year’s conference, both declined to attend. With Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma also absent, there appears to be a noticeable lack of star power at this year’s conference.
The forum’s organiser, former internet guru Lu Wei, had in previous years used the event to pursue closer relations with US tech firms from Silicon Valley, but this year finds himself in prison under corruption charges.
US firms have been lobbying Beijing for increased access to the Chinese market, but have yet to see major progress. Homegrown businesses have also fallen victim to stricter government oversight, such as Tencent, which has seen its gaming businesses stalled by inhibitive regulations.