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China steps up govt presence at Alibaba, private giants
THE government of one of China's top technology hubs is dispatching officials to 100 local corporations including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the latest effort to exert greater influence over the country's massive private sector.
Hangzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, is assigning government affairs representatives to facilitate communication and expedite projects, the city government said on its website. Chinese beverage giant Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co and automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co are among the other companies based in the prosperous region that have been singled out, according to reports in state media.
"We understand this initiative from the Hangzhou city government aims to foster a better business environment in support of Hangzhou-based enterprises. The government representative will function as a bridge to the private sector, and will not interfere with the company's operations," Alibaba said.
The Hangzhou government said the initiative was aimed at smoothing work flow between officials and China's high-tech companies and manufacturers. But the move could be perceived also as an effort to keep tabs on a non state-owned sector that's gaining clout as a prime driver of the world's No 2 economy. Representatives of the country's public security system are already embedded within China's largest Internet companies, responsible for crime prevention and stamping out false rumours.
"They might be checking whether the Communist party units are working effectively within the companies," said Paul Gillis, a professor at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management. "While China legitimised capitalism, the level of government influence was never intended to disappear. Occasionally private entrepreneurs forget about this and are reminded of it."
Zhejiang is considered the cradle of modern Chinese private enterprise, home to a generation of self-made billionaires from Alibaba's Jack Ma and Geely founder Li Shufu to Wahaha's Zong Qinghou. The Communist Party accepted private entrepreneurs into the Party in 2001, allowing them to become part of the country's legislature a year later.
Still, the relationship between Beijing and well-known business people remains sensitive. The government has been seen to try and step up an official presence within non-state firms. BLOOMBERG