China Is Leading The Emergence Of A Shared Digital World

During the Two Sessions of 2024, the emergence of an innovative vision for the economy was at the heart of the debates, with an emphasis on high-quality development. This approach is based on new quality productive forces and the rise of the digital economy. 

Over time, technologies such as the Internet, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain have been seamlessly integrated into all areas of economic and social development. On a global scale, the scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation are rapidly evolving, driving the digital economy to new heights and profoundly changing the way we work and live. 

The digital economy is now seen as the future of the global economy. In September 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Development Initiative, highlighting the digital economy as a key area for cooperation. This initiative encourages the international community to work together to tackle common challenges and promote global development. 

A new engine for growth 

Driven by the momentum of the digital economy, all industries are actively exploring new development models. In health care sector, the introduction of digital health technologies and telemedicine is revolutionising access to medical services. The emergence of smart cities is benefitting from advances in the Internet of Things and AI, paving the way for innovative urban management and services. In manufacturing, innovative concepts such as the industrial Internet and intelligent manufacturing are helping to transform traditional industries into smart and flexible ones. 

According to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, China’s digital economy was expected to reach 56.1 trillion yuan ($7.79 trillion) in 2023, an increase of about 11.75 percent year on year, contributing more than 40 percent to the national economy. 

“The digital economy, as a new growth engine, is a crucial element in promoting high-quality economic development and upgrading the industrial structure,” said Miao Wei, a deputy to the National People’s Congress and vice president of China’s telecommunications giant ZTE. In the context of the current economic transformation, China has clearly defined the strategy of accelerating the promotion of new, high-quality, innovation-driven productive forces, the essence of which is advanced productivity. “Within this framework, the digital economy has been identified as the central driving force, stimulating technological innovation and industrial transformation through digital industrialisation and industrial digitalisation,” he continued. 

Pan Helin, co-director and researcher at the ZIBS Research Centre for Digital Economics and Financial Innovation at Zhejiang University, echoed this vision, pointing out that the development of digital infrastructure has transformed people’s daily lives, and has improved their quality of life while stimulating industrial innovation. This development is bringing about unprecedented opportunities for the renovation of traditional industries and the creation of new digitalised industries. 

Zhuang Rongwen, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, highlighted the spectacular rise of the country’s digital economy. From 2012 to 2022, the digital economy’s share of GDP increased significantly, from 21.6 percent (11 trillion yuan or approximately $1.5 trillion) to 41.5 percent (50.2 trillion yuan or $6.97 trillion). This development reflects the growing importance of the digital economy in the modernisation of China, which is keen to share its achievements with the rest of the world and strengthen international exchanges and cooperation for mutual benefit.

Joint development  

On 2 March, at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in the United Arab Emirates, World Economic Forum President Børge Brende highlighted the rapid transformation of the Chinese economy. This transformation is characterised by the growth of digital trade, e-commerce and services, as well as significant scientific and technological innovation. 

At the international level, China is committed to cooperating with other countries in the digital economy field and promoting the resolution of issues related to digital applications. In recent years, China has launched several global digital initiatives and has become a major player in the development of global digital governance rules. The Digital Silk Road Initiative, which is integrated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a major programme to promote a new type of globalisation. 

At the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017, China proposed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as digital economy, AI, nanotechnology and quantum computing to build a 21st century Digital Silk Road. 

As part of this initiative, China has strengthened its digital infrastructure cooperation with countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. By the end of 2022, China has signed cooperation agreements with 17 countries on the building of the Digital Silk Road and with 30 countries on the development of e-commerce, as well as agreements on facilitating the establishment of international submarine cables and cross-border cable systems with neighbouring countries. 

“China continues to innovate. Its economic development benefits African and other partner countries. Through this initiative, we see how China is stimulating the global economy,” Namibian journalist Uaueza Kanguatjivi told ChinAfrica during the Two Sessions. 

Indeed, China has supported African countries’ efforts to bridge the digital divide. Chinese companies have built most of Africa’s wireless infrastructure and mobile broadband networks, and have laid more than 200,000 km of fibre optic cable across the continent, connecting millions of households to the Internet. 

Chukwuka Onyekwena, executive director of the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa in Nigeria, praised China’s role in Africa’s digital transformation. Rahmantala Osman, resident representative of the African Union Representative Office in China, stressed the importance of South-South cooperation in developing a more inclusive and sustainable digital economy. 

Anna Joubin-Bret, secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, highlighted China’s active contribution to promoting an open, inclusive, fair and equitable global digital economic system. “Digital trade plays a key role in shaping the international trade landscape and its importance will only grow in the future,” she told Xinhua News Agency.

 African Times has published this article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine.



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