The annual banquet attended by virtually all of China’s internet tycoons and high-flyers, who congregate in the picturesque town of Wuzhen in the eastern Zhejiang province on Wednesday, may be quite boring this year.
The sideline dinner at the World Internet Conference held each year in Wuzhen from November 7 to 9 – which is close to Shanghai and touted as the Oriental Venice – is an annual social event for the big names of China’s internet industry as well as top technology executives.
Each year the banquet sparks much online chatter as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Tencent’s Pony Ma, JD.com’s Richard Liu and others sit at the same table to exchange pleasantries.
Now in its fifth year, it is Liu’s turn to host the dinner and Pony Ma is the guest of honor. But a lot has happened in the past 12 months, including a global correction of technology stocks, with Tencent losing nearly 40% of its market capitalization.
Luckily Liu’s JD.com receive a vote of confidence when Google took a minority stake, but paparazzi, gossip and a possible US indictment continue to haunt Liu months after he was released on bail following an alleged sexual assault case in Minnesota.
Others are also watching to see if Jack Ma, who will retire from Alibaba next September, will show up this year. One tycoon who is unlikely to show up is Zhang Yiming, the founder of Bytedance, whose video sharing app Douyin is now a smash hit. Douyin and Tencent are suing each other for defamation.
The tycoons at the dinner may also exchange views on how to avoid US sanctions that were slapped on tech gear maker ZTE earlier this year.
Perhaps Xiaomi founder Lei Jun can also share some thoughts about how to navigate through a volatile market. He saw his worth soar with a summer listing, followed by deep dives of its share price in the following months.