November is a big month for China tech. First, on the 11th, Alibaba brings in Katy Perry to help mark Singles’ Day, its $14 billion online shopping festival. Then on the 16th, domestic and foreign tech leaders will head to the tourist town of Wuzhen for the Cyberspace Administration of China’s Third World Internet Conference. Highlights will include President Xi Jinping speaking via video link and propaganda chief Liu Yunshan in person.
Those two events frame the twin forces shaping China’s internet and technology sector: thriving private commerce on the one hand, and a strong government asserting tighter control on the other. Singles’ Day marks the stunning rise of China’s internet from a neglected backwater to a centerpiece of the new private economy, catering to the demands of an emerging consumer class eager for everything from designer sneakers to online financial products. The World Internet Conference is a day to remember who still runs the show—the government.