CHINA / SOCIETY
Digital economy reshapes Chinese life, boosts devt amid pandemic
Published: Sep 07, 2020 08:55 PM

5G reading equipment and products will make a debut during the 2020 CIFTIS.Photo:VCG



Amid a confluence of factors behind China's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pan-demic, including robust anti-virus measures and the resilience of the country's economy, the rise of China's digital economy could be one of the biggest stabilizers for life and the economy, not just in China but globally under extreme circumstances, industry executives said on Monday at a major services trade event in Beijing.

From online shopping to online classes and entertainment, China's prowess in the digital world - an ever-growing and massive infrastructure - was maximized to generate new growth through new business models amid the pandemic.

These new developments have been frequently highlighted at the ongoing China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, where officials, experts and business leaders called for the further acceleration of the economy's digitization to spur new growth.

In a reflection of how life and business have been changed by the pandemic, Zhang Yi, vice president of Dingdong Maicai, a Shanghai-based online fresh produce and grocery vendor, said on Monday that the platform's daily vegetable supply hit 1,000 tons, and its daily supply of fresh meat and eggs reached 200 tons during the pandemic.

In Shanghai alone, the online vendor ensured local supplies of 400 tons of fresh vegeta-bles and 30 tons of pork a day in February and March. What's more inspiring, many mid-dle-aged and elderly customers, the main patrons of wet markets, have embraced a makeover of their buying habits, Zhang said at a forum on e-commerce battling COVID-19 at the CIFTIS.

A resource matching platform initiated by domestic e-commerce associations and cross-border overseas e-commerce associations was also officially up and running during the forum, aiming to maximize the nation's e-commerce success that has defined its anti-virus battle.  

China has already been a global leader in e-commerce, as consumers and businesses relied more on online shopping. Between January and July, online retail sales in China grew 9 percent from the previous year to 6.08 trillion yuan ($889.89 billion), official data showed.

But online shopping is only a part of the digital economy, which revolves around the digi-talization of manufacturing, marketing and settlement, which means way beyond online purchases, said Li Junbao, co-founder and president of Beijing Wangku Information Technology, anticipating digital economy to become a growth engine. 

The digital economy comprises of internet firms and the digitization of traditional industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and architecture. An inward-looking dual circulation model of economic growth is set to spur the digital economy, as a considerable investment would be required to digitize traditional sectors, Zhang Liqing, chief economist of PwC China, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Since 2012, China's digital economy has grown from 11 trillion yuan to 35.8 trillion yuan, accounting for 36.2 percent of China's total GDP, Xiao Yaqing, minister for industry and information technology, said at the CIFTIS. More than just its size, China is also moving rapidly in its digitization process, with a world-leading internet sector and biggest internet population. 

While taking a hit from COVID-19, Chinese internet companies saw a growth in revenue during the pandemic. From January to July, revenue at major Chinese internet companies increased by 14.9 percent to 691.6 billion yuan, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said.

While e-commerce focuses on the demand side, the future of digital economy will lean toward the supply side, Li told the Global Times on Monday on the sidelines of the CIFTIS.

Instead of eliminating offline businesses, digital technologies would serve as a tool for the economy to be remade. "It's not the case that the digitization push is on course to replace the brick-and-mortar presence," he said, predicting that five to 10 years from now, a digitized economy would better fit into consumers' personalized needs.

Another trend to embrace would be that while Amazon, Alibaba and JD.com will continue to dominate the consumption-oriented internet, a flurry of Chinese platforms are expected to lead specific consumer segments and the industrial internet, Li said, citing the nation's wide-ranging product offerings and complete supply chains.

The drive for digitization also attests to a dual circulation approach to economic develop-ment that foresees domestic and overseas markets being brought into full play, for there to be a rebalanced economy, Zhang Xiang, director of 1688.com, Alibaba's business-to-business online wholesale market, told the Global Times.

China's factories contribute the lion's share of global industrial capacity, and the pandemic has prompted them to rethink how they deal with foreign trade, rendering domestic trade an increasingly necessary choice, Zhang said. 

He said that a focus on digitally powered domestic trade would lead to manufacturers having more price bargaining power, and eventually anchor the economy to the domestic market. 

There are 360,000 exporting factories on the 1688.com platform. These exporters have recorded a 30 percent increase on a monthly basis in domestic market transactions since the nation began a return to work and production.
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