- MEDIA CENTER
Experts call for deeper integration with real economy to spur high-level development
Chinese home appliance giant Haier Group's production base in Tianjin has hit upon a novel idea.
It is offering consumers a chance to customize a washing machine remotely, just by using their mobile phones. Customers get to choose the functions, appearance and design of a washing machine without having to enter a physical store. Once they place an order, intelligent equipment at Haier's interconnected factory automatically reads the information and starts production, tailor-made for each client.
It is using cutting-edge digital technologies, including 5G, artificial intelligence and big data, to improve the workshop's productivity and cut energy consumption by more than 30 percent.
Haier's digitalization push is an example of how Chinese manufacturing companies are embracing the digital economy, mainly represented by new-generation information technologies, and serving as a key engine to drive economic growth.
China's emphasis on developing the digital economy and bolstering the transformation and upgrade of its traditional industries will provide fresh impetus to the country's high-quality development and enhance its core competitiveness on the global stage, officials, experts and business leaders have said.
They have called for greater efforts to push ahead with the construction of digital infrastructure, accelerate the building of basic systems for data and strengthen international exchanges and cooperation in the digital economy domain, as part of a broader push to promote in-depth integration of the digital and real economies.
China will ratchet up resources to achieve breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields, accelerate its performance in emerging industries, including AI, advanced computing and 6G, and step up the establishment of a national unified data registration and data asset evaluation service platform, said Wang Jiangping, vice-minister of industry and information technology, during the China International Big Data Industry Expo 2023 held last month in Guiyang, Guizhou province.
The country had built more than 2.64 million 5G base stations by the end of March, and the number of 5G mobile phone users had reached 620 million, the ministry said.
Emerging sectors, such as data centers, cloud computing and the internet of things, saw revenues rise more than 32 percent year-on-year last year, and the value of the country's core AI industries had exceeded 500 billion yuan ($70.2 billion), the ministry said.
According to a plan jointly released by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, or China's Cabinet, in February, the nation will take solid steps to build digital infrastructure and data resource systems and deepen the integration of digital technologies with the economy, politics, culture, society and ecology.
As per the plan, important progress will be made in the construction of a digital China by 2025, with effective interconnectivity in digital infrastructure, a significantly improved digital economy and major breakthroughs in digital technological innovation.
"Innovative digital technologies like 5G, AI, cloud computing, big data and the IoT are finding a wide range of applications across various industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture, and speeding up their integration with the real economy," said Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at Zhejiang University's International Business School.
Pan said facilitating the development of a digital economy is vital to cultivate new growth drivers, speed up the digital and intelligent upgrades of enterprises and propel the country's economic recovery.
In the face of increasingly fierce competition, he added, enhanced efforts are needed to double down on indigenous innovation to make breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields and expand the industrial application scenarios of leading technologies, in order to gain a competitive edge on the global stage.
"Digital technologies have played an increasingly vital role in enhancing operational efficiency, cutting costs and improving core competitiveness of traditional industries," said Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association.
Xiang said the in-depth integration of digital technologies with the real economy will further enhance the resilience of China's industrial and supply chains and foster new growth drivers amid pressure on the economy.
In December, the country unveiled 20 key measures to build basic systems for data and fully unleash the value of data resources. The basic systems will involve the establishment of a data property rights system, a circulation and trading system, a revenue distribution system and a security governance system.
Moreover, China is establishing a national data bureau, which will coordinate the integration, sharing, development and application of data resources.
"The sharing, circulation, trading and application of data, regarded as a new production factor, will be key to promoting the country's digital development," said Chen Zuoning, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
China's digital economy touched 50.2 trillion yuan in 2022, second worldwide and accounting for 41.5 percent of the country's GDP, according to a report released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
The high-quality development of the digital economy necessitates a higher requirement for computing power, Zhang Yong, chairman and CEO of Chinese tech heavyweight Alibaba Group, said in an earlier interview. "The in-depth integration of a new round of AI with the real economy will bring fundamental changes to various industries," he said.
The industrialization of digital technologies and digital transformation of industries is a vibrant manifestation of the integration of the digital economy with the real economy, he added.
Alibaba Group is making use of digital technologies to help small and medium-sized enterprises and speed up industrial transformation to empower the real economy, he said.
The application of AI technology is reshaping the industrial landscape and will be a transformative force that revolutionizes development over the next 40 years, said Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc.
Li said the goal of the intelligent transformation of industries and society through AI is to fulfill people's needs — making technology meaningful only if it serves humanity by creating more value and contributing to society.
Meanwhile, local governments are intensifying efforts to promote the development of the digital economy, in accordance with the country's aim to raise the proportion of the added value of core digital economy industries in its GDP to 10 percent in 2025, from 7.8 percent in 2020, as per China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).
Zhejiang province is taking solid steps to boost the in-depth integration of internet, big data and AI with the real economy, and promote digital transformation of manufacturing, agriculture and services sectors, according to a document released by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic regulator, in March.
It said the province ranked first in the country last year in the proportion of its added value of the digital economy in its GDP, and overall digitalization.
In 2022, the added value of the digital economy-related core industries in Zhejiang reached 897.7 billion yuan, accounting for 11.6 percent of its GDP.
Shanghai has also mapped out a plan to promote digital transformation and build an international digital city with global influence. It will improve the output of its core industries in the digital economy to 18 percent of the city's GDP in the next five years, up from 15 percent last year.
The city will ramp up efforts to construct digital industrial clusters in the fields of integrated circuits and AI, and aim to become a world-leading metropolis with digital infrastructure and a forerunner of the digital economy.
The capital Beijing is also taking measures to boost the application of digital technologies in various industries. The city's digital economy has continued to expand over the past five years, and the added value of the digital economy accounted for around 42 percent of the city's GDP in 2022.
Zhou Hongyi, founder of cybersecurity company 360 Security Group, emphasized the significance of pushing forward the digital transformation of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as they face mounting pressure from a shortage of capital, talent and technology.
Against the backdrop of potential risks from decoupling, more coordinated efforts are required to resolve bottlenecks and increase investments in basic research and strategic forward-looking technologies, said Chen Duan, director of the Digital Economy Integration Innovation Development Center at the Central University of Finance and Economics.
"We should expedite the translation and application of key scientific and technological breakthroughs, and support leading high-tech companies, which play a critical part in technological innovation, to pour more capital into state-of-the-art technologies to better serve the country's development strategy," Chen said.