Wuzhen Summit: What we can tell from those attending and missing

October 22, 2019 08:40
Leading personalities in the internet world are attending the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen. Photo: WIC

First organized in 2014, the World Internet Conference, also known as the Wuzhen Summit, has attracted an increasingly bigger attendance each year.

In fact, we can spot some interesting trends from the list of those who are attending and those who are missing from this mega event.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who arrived a day before the opening ceremony, was the first bigwig to show up this year. Ma is a member of the high-level expert committee of the summit, so he serves as sort of a host this time.

Since stepping down as Alibaba chairman last month, Ma has been making a lot of public appearances. Before going to Wuzhen, he received the Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award in Singapore last week.

Having taken care of the succession issue by putting in place a new top management team, including current Alibaba chairman Zhang Yong and Jing Xiandong, chairman of Ant Financial Services, the group’s financial services arm, Ma now finds himself with a lot of time to travel around.

Thanks to the group's smooth management transition and continued business growth, Alibaba’s share price has soared 20 percent over the last 12 months, beating most Chinese internet stocks. The Chinese internet giant now has a market capitalization of US$440 billion.

Pinduoduo founder Huang Zheng has emerged as a new star this year.

His company was listed on the Nasdaq in July last year, and its share price has spiked 74 percent so far, giving it a market value of US$39 billion.

With a personal net worth of US$15 billion, Huang tops the wealth list of Chinese born after 1980.

Another rising star is Wang Xing, founder of Meituan Dianping.

Wang has long been viewed as a second-tier figure in China’s internet sector. But now Metiuan Dianping has become China’s largest O2O platform and controls 60 percent share of the food delivery market.

The company's share price has also surged 36 percent since its IPO in September last year, making it the third most valuable internet company in China after Alibaba and Tencent.

Meanwhile, JD.com founder Richard Liu Qiangdong is absent from this year’s summit.

He has been out of public sight since being accused of sexual assault by a Minnesota student in September last year. Although the billionaire was exonerated by law enforcement officials in the United States, the student has filed a civil lawsuit against Liu.

Liu’s personal trouble has been compounded by JD.com's downturn. Its gross merchandise value (GMV) has been lagging further behind that of arch rival Alibaba. At the same time, group-buying platform Pingduoduo has become a growing threat.

JD.com saw 40 percent of its market value shaved off from last year’s peak.

Finally, it’s not certain if Tencent’s chairman Pony Ma will be attending. Ma has been busy implementing the group's internal reform and restructuring since October last year, while the gaming giant’s main business struggles amid policy setbacks.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 21

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist