Measures aim to bolster China's high-quality development
The newly unveiled plan to promote digital socioeconomic transformation will bolster national infrastructure, enhance self-reliance in science and technology and provide fresh impetus to development efforts, analysts said.
The plan, rolled out by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, last month, laid out a host of measures to improve the connectivity of digital infrastructure and strengthen the innovation and application of digital technologies.
Key targets include developing efficient and interconnected digital infrastructure, improving the scale and quality of data resources and enhancing the quality and efficiency of the digital economy by 2025.
By 2035, China aims to be at the global forefront in terms of digital development, and should have attained a sufficient level of digitalization in the economic, political, cultural, social and ecological realms.
The policy document was released weeks before the first session of the 14th National People's Congress, which concluded on March 13. The NPC adopted an institutional reform plan for the State Council that proposed the creation of a new regulator for data governance.
The new national data bureau, which will be administered by the National Development and Reform Commission, will be responsible for advancing the development of fundamental data-related institutions and pushing forward the planning and creation of a digital China, a digital economy and a digital society.
Zhu Keli, the founding director of the China Institute of New Economy, said the plan has mapped out goals and pathways for creating a digital China and prioritized the integration between digital technology and socioeconomic development.
"It (the plan) will give fresh impetus to national development efforts and the common prosperity drive. It will also provide new guarantees for shoring up China's competitive edge and preserving national security," he said.
He said one of the major highlights of the plan is that it has put forward measures to build up the digital infrastructure and data resources to serve as a pillar for the growth of the digital economy.
Other key measures include enabling across-the-board development of the internet of things, the large-scale application of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System and better regional distribution of supercomputing capacity.
China will accelerate the smart, digital transformation of existing infrastructure, establish a national data governance system, promote the integrated use of public data and establish national databases in key sectors such as public health, science and technology and education, the plan said.
It also called for heightened measures to unleash the potential value of commercial data.
China's digital economy was valued at 45.5 trillion yuan ($6.6 trillion) in 2021, accounting for 39.8 percent of GDP, according to a white paper released by the State Council Information Office last year.
By June 2022, there were 1.05 billion internet users in China, and 1.85 million 5G cell towers had been built for 455 million 5G cellphone users.
Online retail sales reached 13.78 trillion yuan last year, up 4 percent year-on-year and accounting for 27.2 percent of total consumer retail sales, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Wu Yanjing, an analyst of the digital economy at China Galaxy Securities, said a reliable, independent and interconnected digital infrastructure is the bedrock for the growth of the digital economy.
Even though China now has the largest number of internet users and one of the most convenient logistics infrastructure networks in the world, a higher degree of digital infrastructure is still needed as the application of artificial intelligence and other digital technologies is set to empower thousands of sectors, she said.
Another highlight of the policy is that it has pledged to establish a funding system to encourage the participation of society and guide financial resources toward supporting digital development.
Wu highlighted the significance of better top-level design and fundamental systems to prevent risk, the occurrence of monopoly and infringement of personal privacy.
The latest plan also put forward measures to make the digital economy bigger and stronger, pledging to deepen integration between digital technology and the real economy in sectors such as agriculture, industry, finance, education, healthcare, transport and energy.
It also reiterated the need to support the growth of companies in the digital sector, including the healthy growth of platform companies.
Zhu said there is huge potential for China's digital economy to empower other sectors.
He explained that the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector, through the use of cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, can lead to better efficiency, quality and lower costs, as well as a reduction in the consumption of resources.
According to a white paper released last year, 55.3 percent of the key processes of large industrial enterprises had become digitally controlled, with 74.7 percent of them using digital R&D tools by February last year.
Zhu noted that the application of digital technology can also make the agricultural sector greener and smarter and enable the services sector to better meet consumer demand.
The plan reaffirmed Beijing's commitment to the development of an open, win-win mechanism for international cooperation in the digital sector, as well as the country's participation in cooperation platforms under the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the G20.
To bolster self-reliance in science and technology, the plan's measures include creating an independent innovation system for digital technologies and strengthening the principal role of businesses in innovation.
It also stressed the imperative of ensuring online security and bolstering data security.
Liang Si, a researcher at the Bank of China's research institute, said the growth of the digital economy can play a leading role in sci-tech innovation and help China attain new breakthroughs in innovation.
"Undoubtedly, the growth of the digital economy has become a strategic option for China to grasp the new opportunities presented in the latest round of the sci-tech revolution and industrial transformation," he said.
"The healthy development of the digital economy will help promote the development of a modern economic system and give China an edge in international competition."
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