Digital revolution spurs economic growth
World Internet Conference sees transformational change on the way
Published: Nov 07, 2018 11:43 PM

The digital age is explained using an image in the shape of a brain during a presentation at the 5th World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen, East China's Zhejiang Province on Wednesday. Photo: VCG

China's economy has been increasingly bolstered by its digital economy which is arguably a global trailblazer, industry executives and observers said on Wednesday at the fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, East China's Zhejiang Province.

The annual gathering of internet experts in the picturesque city of Wuzhen showcases technology solutions and leading-edge uses of the internet that are helping bolster economic growth and improving people's lives. The conference runs from Wednesday to Friday.

The world is going through a broader and deeper science and technology revolution and industrial transformation, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory letter sent to the conference, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

"We should speed up the development of the digital economy and promote the global internet governance system to advance in a just and more reasonable way, so as to inject new impetus to the world economy," read Xi's letter.

As the world goes through a new round of technological and industrial transformative change, the Chinese government has, over the past few years, made efforts to push for the Internet Plus strategy and develop its so-called digital economy, Tencent Holdings Chairman and CEO Pony Ma Huateng said in his speech at the opening of the conference. These efforts have helped to lay a solid foundation for the incorporation of internet technologies into various industries and sectors, said Ma.

Ma also said Tencent is working on plans to develop a virtual reality form of its super app WeChat. He offered no other details. 

WeChat's built-in apps and independently developed mini-apps were named to this year's list of World Leading Internet Scientific and Technological Achievements, which was released at the conference on Wednesday. Other companies whose products and services made the list include Huawei, Amazon and Tesla.

The country's vibrant digital economy is believed to have given a big boost to its economy, with Tencent's Ma saying mini-apps alone helped create 1.04 million jobs in 2017.

Sharing internet governance

In another sign of the country's rising prominence in integrating emerging technologies into the lives of Chinese people, Shenzhen-based autonomous driving startup, whose self-driving vehicles have been seen roaming the streets of Wuzhen, unveiled its newer-generation self-driving technology at the conference.

The company plans to produce 1,000 to 2,000 self-driving vehicles in partnership with domestic and foreign carmakers and put them into commercial operation in 10 cities across China by 2020, according to Heng Liang, co-founder of the company that specializes in level four autonomous driving technologies. A self-driving vehicle at level four requires no human intervention in most driving situations.

The company is also considering putting its self-driving vehicles on the roads of cities in Japan, Europe and the US, but detailed plans have yet to be worked out, Heng told the Global Times.

Apart from impressive technological advances, industry observers noted that China is playing a greater part in improving global governance of the internet sphere.

"The creation of a community with a shared future is not something that just involves the real world but increasingly relates to cyberspace, and China could carry the ball in global internet governance," Cheng Maiyue, director of the Wuzhen Institute, an internet industry think tank, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Allowing greater openness in China's internet sphere would also facilitate the sharing of its scientific and technological achievements around the world, said Cheng. Additionally, the country should push the use of smart technologies to better ensure cyber security, paving the way to become a trailblazer in global internet governance, noted Cheng, who is also the former partner of US-based Rocky Mountain Institute.

China could share its experience with countries and regions along the routes of the Belt and Road initiative in fostering internet development to create more reasonable global internet governance, said Cheng.