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March on digital China, but be patient: Jiang Xiaojuan

wuzhenwic.org Updated: 2021-08-03

Jiang Xiaojuan, dean of the School of Public Policy Management of Tsinghua University, delivered a speech on large-scale application of digital technology on March 20, 2021 at the economic summit of the 2021 annual meeting of the China Development Forum.

She outlined that accelerating digital development and constructing a digital China was included in the country's Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 as a separate chapter for the first time in history, which should build new advantages in the digital economy, help construct a digital society and digital government and create a beneficial digital ecosystem.

Development requirements for digital economy

According to the outline, the added value of the digital economy's core industries will increase to 10 percent in 2025 from the current 7.2 percent and digital industrialization will focus on industries like cloud computing, big data, the internet of things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality.

Digital technology should realize full coverage of the economy, society and government management in the next five years.

In addition, digital economy will be required in more sectors like consumption, tourism, travel, medical care and education, and e-government is expected to bring fairer and more efficient governance.


China highly values building a digital China and has included the goal into its Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and its Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035. [Photo/IC]

Measures to develop digital economy

The outline identifies four main methods to realize the digital economy goal mentioned above: 5G network construction, digital consumption, digital production and activation of digital transaction.

China will accelerate scaling up its 5G networks and increase the overall 5G access rate to 56 percent, according to the outline.

Jiang explained that so far, 5G terminal connections exceed 200 million in China, a country with nearly 1.16 billion mobile network users. The 56 percent goal means that there will be 450 million new 5G users and more devices to connect with each other in the future.


A student takes an online lecture in Nanchang, East China's Jiangxi province, on Feb 11, 2020. [Photo/IC]

She also expressed her confidence in increasing digital consumption in new areas by taking examples of online education and telemedicine.

Online education was all about giving remote lectures in the past but now training experiments are possible thanks to 5G technology with high-throughput and low latency.

A similar situation arises in telemedicine, which in the old days was to send patients' condition and symptoms to doctors through the internet but now encompasses remote diagnosis, examination and even surgery. We are all walking together into a new reality.

As for digital production, Jiang said that she believed digital production is a larger but more complicated field.

She explained that different industries have distinguished application scenarios for digital production, which means it is almost impossible to build one platform that is suitable for all manufacturers and consumers.


Doctors work in front of desktops to talk with patients at the smart health care center of Henan Provincial People's Hospital in Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China's Henan province on May 21, 2020. [Photo/IC]

Digital production was still in its infancy period during the 13th Five Year Plan period (2016-20) and during the next five years will enter an accelerated stage.

However, Jiang mentioned that it is hard to say whether extensive connectivity will be realized.

Last but not least, activating data transaction will also be a key player in digital economic development.

Jiang said that data is a production factor that can confirm rights, support trade and gain income. The key issue is how to properly deal with the relationship between data-based industrial development, personal privacy protection and national data security.

She concluded that China has a great number of digital technological applications, consumer groups and industrial groups, as well as a sound foundation to develop the digital economy. Although the digital platform can be powerful, regulation should not be ignored during its development and supervision may be uncertain for a period, which will call for patience, public responsibility and a public relation capacity so that the platform is properly used to drive the overall economic growth of the country.

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