China aims to help local Internet firms cross into the global market

China seeks to help the country’s Internet firms gain a bigger foothold in the international market, and is preparing to pour more state funds into its emerging tech sector, according to one of its top leaders.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the statement in his opening address to the country’s annual parliamentary session on Thursday. He added that China is establishing an “Internet Plus” plan to promote its mobile Internet, cloud computing, and e-commerce sectors, as part of a push to support the country’s emerging industries.

“The country has already established a 40 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion) emerging industry innovation investment fund, and more capital will be brought in and integrated,” he said.

China is home to some of the biggest Internet firms in the world, including e-commerce giant Alibaba, search provider Baidu, and messaging and gaming company Tencent.

None of these firms have the same international presence as Google or Facebook, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

On Wednesday, Alibaba announced it had opened a data center in Silicon Valley, targeting the U.S. cloud computing market.

Tencent, on the other hand, has been trying to popularize its messaging app WeChat in emerging markets including Southeast Asia.

Outside of helping Chinese Internet companies thrive, the country has also been stepping up its online censorship. Last year, China began blocking all of Google, and censored social networking apps including Facebook’s Instagram.

Some Chinese Internet users and businesses have complained, especially after the government began disrupting access to several virtual private network (VPN) providers. These VPNs can be used to bypass China’s strict censorship to connect with blocked sites such as Facebook and Google.

China, however, doesn’t plan to loosen its control over the Internet. On Thursday, Xu Shaoshi, minister of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, was asked at a news conference whether he was worried the Internet censorship would drive away foreign business.

He replied that China would continue to support, but also regulate, the Internet industry.

“I’m not worried it will affect the way our companies run,” he said. “In practice, we will also explore further, to better support and regulate the Internet’s development.”

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