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Wuzhen: Ancient town cruising on information superhighway

2015-12-14Source:   Chua Chin Leng


As the host of the Second World Internet Conference on Dec 16, Wuzhen town in Zhejiang province is in the spotlight. [Photo by Geng Feifei/China Daily]

In a few days, more than 2,000 delegates from the modern cities of the world, Internet and computer savvy, will descend into this little water town that could be mistaken for a town from Lee Ang's Wuxia movie 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'.

The water town of Wuzhen in Zhejiang with 1,300 years of history is anything but an unlikely candidate to host the 2nd World Internet Conference (WIC). It hosted the first WIC in 2014 and the delegates were so impressed by its modern Internet facilities, an ancient town all wired up for the challenges of 21st Century demands of the Internet world, that Wuzhen is now the permanent home for the WIC.

An aerial view of the town gives the impression of a sleepy ancient town, wholly intact in colors and architecture as if time has stood still. There are no gleaming glass panel skyscrapers in the vicinity to this little town of 57,000 inhabitants that boasts of all the smart and innovative technologies one can think of, e-commerce, Internet financing, intelligent logistics, cloud computing, big data, Internet driven information and medical technologies and 380 start ups in the last six months.

Quoting from Ge Huijun, director of the publicity department of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee:

"Wuzhen has fully merged with the "Internet Plus" concept, with online medical services, smart tourism, and intelligent traffic successively put into operation. Its charm will further increase with the free Wi-Fi."

President Xi Jinping will arrive in this little town to give the keynote speech this week. In his company will be Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Temir Sarivev, and Prime Minister of Tajikistan Kokhir Rasulzoda and many ministerial-ranked officials. Many representatives of leading Internet technology companies will also be showcasing their latest products and equipment during the conference not unlike what is happening in Silicon Valley.

The presence of Xi marks the importance of this conference and China's intent to play a leading role in cyber development and cyber security. The theme of the conference is 'Our Interconnected world shared and governed by all, Building a Cyberspace Community of Shared Destiny'. Up in the agenda will be the structuring of cyberspace regulations and governance, two contentious areas where the issues of national security, freedom of expression and transparency would be put to test. With 650 million Internet and mobile users, China would be in a position to chart the course and direction of cyberspace development, in governance, technologies and innovations.

The contrasting backdrop of ancient Wuzhen and the task of the WIC is a testament of the past and present, of history and cutting-edge innovations, when the different dimensions of time come together.

The author is a political observer from Singapore.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily website.