Clamping Down on ‘Spiritual Opium’

You’d think the biggest story in tech to watch right now is the increasing power of the giant U.S. tech firms — and how to regulate them (regulation will come, at some point). But I can’t stop paying attention to what’s happening to China’s enormous tech industry and the entrepreneurial leaders who built it.

Maybe there are no real lessons in this story for Americans. No U.S. government — or any other democratic one — is inclined (or able) to do what the Chinese government is doing to rein in tech companies. And by “rein in” I mean this: The Chinese government appears to be taking control of significant parts of the industry.

Everyone who covers tech has long been aware that the Chinese tech phenoms — including Tencent, Alibaba, Huawei, JD.com, Baidu, Xiaomi and Lenovo — have worked with their government in ways that the big American tech companies have not done with the U.S. leadership.

But the power that the Chinese government has held over its tech firms has always been mostly implicit: No company made a big move without first considering how the Communist Party leadership would react.

But what was once implicit has become explicit. In the last several months, we’ve seen a laundry list of new regulations appear, beginning with the

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