This article has been updated and the headline changed after Uber responded with additional information.
Business leaders from some of the biggest global names in technology gathered last night in Seattle for a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The meeting featured US and Chinese tech giants including Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.
But executives from two of the world’s largest, most powerful tech companies, Google and Uber, did not appear in the formal photo with Xi Jinping from the event, which could mean bad news for their China expansion plans. And the mostly-male meeting highlighted a dismal fact—China’s tech industry is just at male dominated as the US’s.
The Chinese side includes top executives from Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent—three firms which dominate search, e-commerce, and social media in China respectively. A handful of state-owned enterprises are included on the list, as is little-known server manufacturer Inspurs, which is reportedly due to form a partnership with Cisco (paywall).
When it comes to the US side, many of America’s heavy hitters from the tech industry came. It is hard to say when the last time was that all of these executives were gathered in one room. Here’s who was pictured:
But there were some people missing, both from the panel discussions during the event and the formal photo with Xi. Photos like these are particularly important in China because they’re not just photos—they’re diplomatic symbols that illustrate who is of importance, and who isn’t.
Google’s execs are nowhere to be found in the group photo, and were not listed on any reports of the event itself. Given the search giant pulled its consumer-facing operations from China in 2010 following widely-publicized frustrations with censorship and alleged government-sponsored hacking, that might not be surprising. But the $437 billion market cap company remains an integral part of China’s tech sector—its mobile operating system Android is used by about 400 million Chinese smartphone owners.
The company reportedly plans to re-enter China with a mobile app store, but the fact that Google is missing from the US-China tech summit signals that reentry won’t be easy. Google did not respond to questions from Quartz about the Seattle meeting.
Another conspicuous absence from the event photo is Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick. The CEO was spotted at the peripheries of the event giving media interviews, but did not appear on featured invite lists reported by state media. Kalanick was there, an Uber spokeswoman said, and attended a luncheon held by internet czar Lu Wei and appeared on a panel with Bill Gates and Pony Ma. Uber would not comment when asked if Kalanick met Xi personally.
Uber has been active in China since 2013, and claims to provide Chinese citizens over one million rides a day. The company has been running an aggressive PR campaign directed at both the media and the Chinese government, describing its business in China as separate from its global operations and “fully Chinese.” It also launched a brand-new service in Chengdu yesterday, and even published a welcome notice for Xi Jinping in its app for Seattle users.
Uber’s most powerful rival in China, and the rest of the world Didi Kuaidi, was there (again, perhaps not surprising—they are backed by the Chinese government). Uber’s lack of an invite does not bode well for the company’s aggressive China expansion plans.
And, of course, there was the lack of women, a problem that’s a widespread in China tech circles as it is in the US’s. IBM’s Gina Rometty and semiconductor maker AMD’s Lisa Su were the only women in a group of 24 execs, bringing female invitees to a dismal 8.3%.