China’s digital economy enters “golden era”: government think tank

According to a report by China Daily, government think tank China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) stated that China’s digital economy has entered a “golden era” and has become a new economic growth engine.

An expert from the CAICT said that the internet, and technologies like cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping transform several industries and sectors, thereby driving economic growth.

“The country’s digital economy has stepped into a new phase, with the focus shifting from high-speed growth to both quantity and quality development,” said Mr Lu Chuncong, Director of the Policy and Economic Research Institute at CAICT.

CAICT data showed that in 2017, China’s digital economy generated 27.2 trillion yuan (US$4.31 trillion) in scale last year, up 20% year-on-year and higher than that of China’s overall economic growth of 6.9% in 2017.

“Digital economy’s contribution to GDP exceeded 33% last year,” Mr Lu added.

The contribution of digital economy to GDP is expected to approach or even surpass the corresponding figure in developed countries.

At the same time, the digital economy has played an important role in creating jobs. Last year, 171 million people worked in China’s digital economy-related sectors, accounting for 22% of the country’s total employment.

Recently, a report released by the e-Commerce Research Center (ECRC) showed that China’s e-commerce exports rose 14.5% year-on-year to 6.3 trillion yuan ($1 trillion) in 2017.

According to Mr Zhang Zhouping, an analyst with the ECRC, e-commerce exports have taken a growing share of China’s total foreign trade, playing a key role in the restructuring and upgrading of its trade pattern.

China remains the world’s important commodity exporter and e-commerce exports have replaced general trade amid stabilizing trade volume, showing good growth momentum, Zhang said.

In 2017, value of business-to-business (B2B) exports rose 13.3% to 5.1 trillion yuan, according to the report. Online retail sales of e-commerce exports came in at 1.2 trillion yuan, up 21.2% year-on-year.

The rapid expansion of cross-border e-commerce has offered opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to participate in world trade.

According to Mr Lu, China’s technology innovation has helped transform industry from a follower to a world leader, with the information technology and telecommunications sectors contributing the most.

For example, China’s ongoing shift to the 5G technology illustrates the country’s support to its digital economy. It is expected that 5G devices will be ready for commercial applications in China in 2019. China is also likely to be among the first batch of countries to issue 5G licenses in the world, most likely between the second half of 2019 and the first half of 2020.

However, according to Mr Lu, China still lagged behind in some core technologies compared with developed countries, which requires the country to accelerate core technology breakthroughs.

He said the country should bolster basic technologies while also mapping out the next generation of technologies in advance. It should also expand channels linking basic research and technology innovation.

“The country is expected to increase investment and encourage more industry-oriented investments in key and weak areas,” he said.

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