Digital economy: powerful new engine for China’s development

A technician checking and debugging equipment of an automated warehouse in a chemical fiber company in Zhouquan township, Tongxiang, East China’s Zhejiang Province on April. Photo by Wang Zhijie/People’s Daily Online

By Wang Zheng, Han Xin, People’s Daily

At a digital factory of IKD Co., Ltd., in Ningbo, East China’s Zhejiang Province, automatic guided vehicles are running smoothly and scanners are working efficiently. An invisible 5G network behind these smart devices are contributing to the factory’s production data collection and logistics management.

“As a provider of automotive aluminum alloy precision die-casting parts, we are required to ensure that our products’ stability shall reach 99.99 percent,” said He Shenghua, deputy general manager of the joint-stock company.

By connecting smart equipment to the 5G network, the company has been able to guarantee sound signal transmission of 700 terminals with high-capacity, high-speed, and low-latency data flow, He introduced.

“Our per capita output value grew by 17 percent last year. Meanwhile, our products’ competitiveness improved significantly. Our factory is expected to be fully covered by 5G networks by this month,” He disclosed.

The combination of 5G networks and industrial Internet have added to the significance of digital technologies in smart factories, making them an important engine for national economic development.

The value-added of China’s digital economy reached 35.8 trillion yuan ($5.12 trillion) last year, accounting for 36.2 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the White Paper on the Development of China’s Digital Economy (2020), which was released by China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) on July 3.

The figure signaled continuous expansion of the country’s digital economy.

“The foreign high-calcium foreign milk I bought during the June 18 online shopping festival just saved me hundreds of yuan,” Li Fangfang, a local resident in Jinzhong, North China’s Shanxi Province, told the People’s Daily.

Benefiting from the rapid development of digital trade, “shopping around the globe at home” has become commonplace for Chinese consumers.

While playing a significant role in China’s digital economy, digital trade is also the most important embodiment of the internationalization of digital economy.

In recent years, China’s digital trade has been developing both intensively and extensively, with certain economic models such as e-commerce and sharing economy enjoying particularly rapid progress, constantly injecting impetus into the development of digital economy.  

The 35.8-trillion-yuan figure also indicated the surging development of China’s new industries and new businesses.

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing recently launched autonomous taxi service on a 53.6-kilometer road section in Jiading district, Shanghai, and Chen Feng, a resident in Shanghai, experienced the service the second day after its launch.

“The turning, obstacle avoidance, overtaking and braking were all completed automatically, and the service was both comfortable and safe,” Chen said.

Over 400 innovative 5G projects of have started in China so far, covering multiple areas such as the industry, transportation and medical services.

In 2019, the value-added of China’s digital industrialization hit 7.1 trillion yuan, marking a nominal growth of 11.1 percent year on year.

The 35.8-trillion-yuan figure is a witness to the ever-deepening integration of the country’s new technologies into the real economy.  

In the past, cement manufacturers didn’t have many intelligent equipment, and the quality of their products and energy consumption relied heavily on the experience of the workers.

In an effort to enhance productivity and reduce cost, Shandong Donghua Cement Co., Ltd., a cement manufacturer in East China’s Shandong Province, introduced an “industrial brain” to its workshops, intending to reduce the energy consumption and improve the quality of products during the production of clinker through real time data monitoring and parameters adjustment.

“As proven by the trial run, we managed to increase the grinding efficiency by nearly three percent and our economic benefits by more than 40 million yuan. In addition, we saw a four percent reduction in power consumption,” said Xu Lu, deputy chief engineer of the company.

In fact, more and more traditional industries in the country are creating considerable economic benefits by carrying out comprehensive industrial transformation and upgrading with the help of digital technologies.

As indicated by official data, the size of the value-added generated by China’s industrial digitalization in 2019 was around 28.8 trillion yuan, account for 29 percent of the country’s GDP. Back in 2005, the proportion was only 7 percent.

“China’s digital economy keeps growing rapidly and is becoming a new engine for high-quality economic development,” remarked He Wei, deputy director of the institute of politics and economy of CAICT.

Photo taken on May 23 shows a 5G-based logistics vehicle working in a digital workshop of a base of Hangzhou Robam Appliances, a Chinese kitchen appliance manufacturer. Photo by Luo Hongjun/People’s Daily Online

Photo shows staff members test self-driving buses equipped with 5G and AI technologies in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China’s Henan Province on June 22. Photo by Zhang Tao/People’s Daily Online 

Photo taken on June 23 shows a part of the automatic system of a workshop of a steel rolling plant of Masteel Group in Maanshan, East China’s Anhui Province. Photo by Luo Jisheng/People’s Daily Online