China, S.Korea can lead global smart city trend

By Wang Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/7 22:43:41

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

South Korea is planning to develop Sejong and Busan into smart cities by 2023 as an exploration of smart city models, according to media reports in the country. Nowadays, all major countries are competing to build smart cities, with China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore all making efforts to build smart cities based on their respective national conditions.

Among them, China and South Korea compete with each other in certain aspects, but the potential for mutual cooperation is even greater.

The two countries have their own design philosophies for smart cities. In China, the construction of the Xiongan New Area is based on a blueprint drawn on a blank piece of paper. South Korea puts more emphasis on upgrading its existing cities based on internet technologies. The two design concepts will have different results and provide different solutions for the future development of smart cities in Asia and the rest of the world.

The key competitive point in smart city development lies in core technologies. China and South Korea each have their own advantages in this regard. Since the 1980s, South Korea has come to the global forefront in communications technology, semiconductor manufacturing and internet technology.

In recent years, with the emergence of tech giants such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, China has been catching up. China's strengths and potential in researching, developing and applying AI technologies have also drawn the world's attention.

As well as design, the development options taken by the two countries have been different. In the construction of the Xiongan New Area, China is more inclined to adopt the public-private partnership (PPP) model, which emphasizes the involvement of private capital, as well as the government's role. But the construction of smart cities in South Korea is still basically guided by the government. The construction of Sejong City has basically relied on the administrative power of the government. This is part of the explanation for the development challenges Sejong City has faced.

At present, the global community is facing challenges in areas such as energy security, environmental protection, healthcare and social services. The original intention of most countries in building smart cities is to explore new development paths, to benefit people's lives, to overcome urban development challenges, and to provide effective services.

In this context, although China and South Korea may appear to be competing to develop smart cities, they are actually taking different paths to find the best solutions for the future of mankind. Therefore, the two countries have great room for cooperation and complementarity in this field. They can also offer each other major development opportunities.

Through the implementation of its U-Korea and U-City strategies, South Korea has conducted fruitful exploration and accumulated plenty of advanced experience, which can be a valuable reference for other countries such as China.

In addition, the current definition of a smart city places a lot of emphasis on AI, along with innovative technologies such as driverless cars and facial recognition systems.

China has become an international leader in the research and development of AI technology and has been invited to participate in urban governance of other countries. South Korea may consider introducing China's advanced technologies to help build its own smart cities.

To a certain extent, the construction of smart cities in China and South Korea can provide opportunities and development platforms for multinational corporations in both countries, and this is helping to accelerate the construction process. Their goal is not only to serve their own country, but also to promote their own industries or related fields to a higher level by participating in smart city construction on a global level. So, whether it's South Korea's LG and Samsung, or China's Alibaba and Tencent, all these companies can benefit from cooperation between the two countries on smart city construction.

China and South Korea have already realized the importance of strengthening exchange and cooperation on smart cities. In January 2013, China and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on sustainable urban development, which was a good start. In the future, the cooperation potential between the two countries could enable them to lead the development trend in the global competition, allowing more cities that are greener, cleaner, harmonious and convenient to be built.

The author is an associate professor with the School of Government and director of the BRICS Cooperation Center at Beijing Normal University.


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