BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s state planner on Wednesday praised Tencent and Alibaba in a statement detailing a study it had done on platform firms, in the latest sign authorities are warming up to the technology sector after a nearly three-year crackdown.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said platform companies had become key contributors to areas of tech innovation China was prioritising, such as semiconductors and autonomous driving.

It highlighted a number of examples, such as Tencent and Meituan’s investments in cloud computing and semiconductors respectively, as well as Alibaba’s efforts in digitising agriculture.

The commission’s comments come after authorities signalled last week that a crackdown that began in late 2020 on the country’s technology sector had ended with fines on Ant Group and Tencent.

During the campaign, which wiped billions of dollars off the market value of China’s top technology firms, regulators repeatedly criticised and punished these companies for violations ranging from failing to protect customer privacy to monopolistic behaviour.

On Wednesday morning, Tencent’s shares gained 1.8% and Alibaba’s shares jumped 1.86% in the Hong Kong market, outperforming a 1.15% gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Beijing began softening its tone earlier this year and authorities in recent months began to reassure the private sector as they worked to reinvigorate China’s economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. The NDRC also met with private firms including Baidu last week.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country to focus more on making breakthroughs in “hard” technologies such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence, as China seeks to reduce its reliance on Western technology.

(Reporting by Qiaoyi Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Sonali Paul)

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