Internet Tycoons Not a Threat to Communist Party: China Official

Lu Wei
Lu Wei, minister of China’s Internet Information Office, speaks at at a media briefing Thursday in Beijing.Eric Baculinao / NBC News

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BEIJING — Private entrepreneurs may dominate China’s Internet industry but they pose no threat to the ruling Communist party’s ability to control cyberspace, according to the mastermind of the country's harshest Internet crackdown in years. Unlike the mainstream media, which remain firmly in the hands of state-controlled companies, China’s biggest Web portals are privately owned or controlled. A recent Forbes magazine list suggested China's three richest people were Internet entrepreneurs with a combined worth of close to $50 billion.

But Lu Wei, the minister of China’s Internet Information Office, insisted Thursday that tycoons "do not pose any pressure or bigger problem to our party’s ability to manage the Internet." In response to a question from NBC News, the Internet czar said that tycoons were "the biggest beneficiaries of China's reform," adding: "Our goal is to build China as a great Internet power." Lu also announced that China will host the First World Internet Congress next month, startling news given the country's strict firewall system and Internet censorship.

David Bandurski, who has written on Beijing's campaign to tame social media and vocal Internet celebrities, described Lu as “a very hardline sort of activist Internet chief, a tough guy." The rise of China’s internet entrerpreneurs “do not have appreciable effects on information in China, the party monopolizes the information,” Bandurski told NBC News. However, he conceded that “over a long time, the potential [of opening up] is there.”


- Eric Baculinao

Researcher Zhou Chaojie contributed to this report.