China a global leader in hi-tech development
Published: Jan 12, 2019 12:08 AM
After having taken the global lead in the digitalization of the consumer sector at large, it's time for China to up the ante in incorporating emerging internet technologies into its manufacturing sector, according to the findings of a Chinese internet trends report released on Friday.

When it comes to digitalizing businesses related to consumption in everyday life ranging from clothing and catering to housing and transportation, China already leads the world, said Li Shu, partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), while announcing the report findings at a media briefing in Beijing.

As an indication, Beijing-based Luckin Coffee, known for its new retail push, took only 10 months, from January 2018 to November that year, to open 1,500 stores, while Starbucks spent 10 years from 2005 to 2015 to hit that number. If Luckin Coffee's growth continues at its current pace, it is slated to overtake Starbucks as China's largest coffee chain in the second quarter of this year, per the report.

Over the past four decades since China began its reform and opening-up in 1978, the lives of Chinese people have been rife with change, in terms of policies, roads, among other aspects of daily lives, which has prepared them well for new consumption trends powered by the internet, thereby catapulting the country into the global leader in the digitalization of the consumer sector, said Xiao Ping, a researcher at AliResearch.

It's now time for the second half - competing on the integration of the internet into the factory sector, he noted. 

The country is still playing catchup in the digitalization of its manufacturing sector, according to the report. It will be some time before China is on par with countries like the US in four core parts of manufacturing digitalization - smart interconnectedness, information integration, data strategies and human-machine collaboration.

"As demographic dividends diminish, China's traditional industries in the pursuit of new growth engines have intrinsic motivation to embrace new technologies," Zhao Cheng, vice president of Baidu, told reporters.

The availability of 5G technologies is set to give a big boost to the digitalization of the factory sector at large, he went on to say.

China will issue temporary 5G licenses in a number of cities this year to allow for large-scale 5G networks to be built in select cities and regions and ramp up efforts to push for the development of 5G devices, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said on Thursday.

The report, jointly authored and published by BCG and the research arms of Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Baidu, is the second of its kind that tends to create a Chinese equivalent of the much-anticipated annual Internet trends report by US venture capitalist Mary Meeker. 

The first report was published in September 2017 by BCG and the research units of Alibaba, Baidu and Didi Chuxing, saying that China and the US have become the twin engines of global Internet development, and the Chinese engine is apparently younger and more vibrant than its US counterpart.