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China's Economy Ushers in Digital Transformation

By Xinhua|Nov 10,2023

This photo taken on Nov. 7, 2023 shows a view of the Light of Internet Expo in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang Province. (Photo/Xinhua)

Hangzhou - One can get information about physical conditions, advice on diet, and even prescriptions by putting a hand into a small AI-powered instrument for two minutes.

This is not a science fiction scenario, but a real practice demonstrated at the ongoing expo of the 2023 World Internet Conference (WIC) Wuzhen Summit held in east China's Zhejiang Province.

It comes amid the immense progress China has made in digitalization over the past decade. In 2022, China's digital economy had reached 50.2 trillion yuan (about 6.99 trillion U.S. dollars), up from 11 trillion yuan in 2012, said Xia Xueping, head of the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies, at a press conference during the summit.

By June 2023, China had about 1.08 billion internet users, nearly double the number recorded at the end of 2012. Meanwhile, internet penetration increased to 76.4 percent from 42.1 percent during this period.

On the basis of this huge digital community, internet enterprises thrived in China over the past decade. The number of Chinese internet enterprises listed on the stock market had increased from just over 50 in December 2012 to nearly 160 in June 2023, including internet giants like ByteDance and Pinduoduo, while the scale of leading internet enterprises also continued to grow.

AI technologies, especially AI foundation models, are developing at a rapid pace and profoundly reshaping both the digital and real worlds. AI is boosting productivity and generating new momentum for the development of various industries in China.

Tencent Cloud, one of China's top cloud service vendors, has provided more than 50 foundation models for 10 industries such as finance, culture and tourism, media, government affairs, and education.

For example, travel plans can be made by a tour guide or travel agent, but now may also be created by AI.

With personalized travel services using the Language Models on Tencent Cloud, users can simply provide their preferences, budget and general route to generate a detailed travel plan and schedule their daily itinerary in advance.

Some traditional industries are taking the initiative to embrace digital transformation.

Xinfengming Group, a chemical fiber manufacturer based in Zhejiang's Tongxiang City, where the WIC Wuzhen Summit is being held, has used a wide range of intelligent robots on its production lines. In its factory, robots are tasked with duties such as product inspection and delivery.

"With the help of robots, our factory's per capita output value is twice the industry average," said Yang Zhongjie, manager of the factory.

People watch robots dancing at the World Internet Science and Technology Museum in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang Province, Nov. 7, 2023. (Photo/Xinhua)

China's digital economy, now ranking second in the world in terms of the overall scale, has shown strong growth momentum. However, there are still obstacles in the process of its development.

The China Internet Development Report 2023, released Wednesday at the WIC Wuzhen Summit, revealed that China aims to step up research, development and application of new technologies to make AI more widely utilized in major fields such as agriculture, industry, finance, education and medical services, while also diversifying application scenarios.   

"Many small and medium-sized enterprises form the main body of the supply, industrial and ecological chains. These are often sluggish in undergoing digital transformation, due to issues such as a lack of funds, talent and technologies," said Zhou Hongyi, founder of Chinese internet security firm Qihoo 360.

At the national level, China will promote deeper integration of the digital and real economies, and support small and medium-sized enterprises in speeding up transformation, the report said.

Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo Group's chairman and CEO, pointed out at the summit that in the application of AI foundation models, there are still some practical problems to be solved. "While generating productivity, they should also protect privacy and data security," Yang said.

The welcome entrance of the 2023 World Internet Conference (WIC) Wuzhen Summit is pictured in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang Province, on Nov. 7, 2023. (Photo/Xinhua)

China sees a need for international cooperation in tackling issues concerning digital applications. During the past few years, China has proposed multiple initiatives to promote the formulation of global digital governance rules.

Meanwhile, the "Digital Silk Road" construction is expected to let internet development benefit more people in the world.

"This year's summit is not only a review of global digital economic development over the past decade, but also a look ahead seeking more inclusive and equitable development in the next stage," said Pan Helin, a researcher at the International Business School of Zhejiang University, noting that China is willing to promote regional collaboration and the flow of digital elements to create a fairer and more open development environment for all.


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