Every year at the World Internet Conference, held since 2014 in the photogenic canal town of Wuzhen near Shanghai, companies and government officials have convened to send a message: China is a high-tech force to be reckoned with.
With that message now settled beyond much doubt, this year’s conference showcased something different. China’s tech industry is becoming more serious about grappling with its products’ unintended consequences — and about helping the government.
Discussions of technology’s promise were leavened with contemplation of its darker side effects, such as fraud and data breaches. A forum on protecting personal information featured representatives from China’s highest prosecutor and its powerful internet regulator. And several tech companies pledged their support for Beijing’s counterterrorism efforts, even as China faces international criticism for detaining and indoctrinating Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism in the western region of Xinjiang.