Xi Tightens His Grip, and China’s Tech Giants Feel the Squeeze

For China’s tech giants, working with Beijing has become more important for another reason: Mr. Xi has tightened China’s controls on the internet, and moved with remarkable force against companies that step out of line.

Sina Weibo, a service that resembles Twitter, lost some of its appeal as a raucous forum amid a coordinated crackdown early in Mr. Xi’s tenure on what regulators called rumor-mongering. Last month, regulators clamped down on Bytedance, one of China’s most successful start-ups, shutting down its humor app and ordering it to clean up “vulgar” content on several of its other apps.

As a result, tech potentates are trying harder than ever to keep the leadership happy.

On the third floor of a gleaming Tencent high-rise in Shenzhen, the Communist Party makes its presence within the company literal.

A chart on the wall shows how many employees are party members (more than 8,000 this year). Another display lists the monthly schedule for employees’ party education. (This month’s offering: training sessions on “New Era, New Thought, New Journey.”)

Tencent’s mascot, a jaunty winking penguin, appears throughout with a hammer and sickle on its chest.

Growing numbers of tech industry leaders have also joined the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp Parliament, and the People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory group.

In December, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s executive chairman, announced that the company had started a $1.5 billion poverty relief fund. At a news conference before this year’s legislative session, Pony Ma, Tencent’s chief executive and a returning member of the congress, offered suggestions for improving schools and health care.

“The general secretary’s remarks were very sophisticated and contained a lot of information,” Pony Ma said after discussing innovation with Mr. Xi, according to state media, using one of Mr. Xi’s official titles. “I filled a full six pages with notes.”

Mr. Ma continued: “This is a new opportunity for the rapid development of our innovative companies.”