China showcases digital know-how at World Internet Conference
World Internet Conference stresses cooperation
Published: Nov 22, 2020 07:43 PM

A robotic arm, capable of emulating human movements via artificial intelligence, performs a tea ceremony at the third China International Import Expo in Shanghai. Photo: cnsphoto

China showcased cutting-edge technologies ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing to big data and blockchain at an expo on Sunday in Wuzhen, a town in East China's Zhejiang Province, a day before the opening of the 2020 World Internet Conference. 

The "Light of Internet" expo and the internet conference are held at a time when China is urging the international community to strengthen digital cooperation and formulate global governance rules for digital products, while the world is groping for methods to cope with a recession triggered by the pandemic. 

New technologies and digital products from more than 100 companies and innovative teams are being displayed. Some of the exhibitors created scenarios for investors to have an "immersive experience" of their technologies, such as a self-driving virtual test and training platform to let visitors experience the safety of self-driving cars. Visitors can also learn about how AI is used in hospitals by seeing exhibits like an interactive medical three-dimensional model. 

Because of the pandemic, some of the activities are being held online during the two-day conference. Despite the restrictions, the Global Times observed hotels and inns near the event venue were fully booked.

The conference also set strict quarantine rules for participants. Journalists, for their part, had to show negative test results within seven days before they checked in on Sunday. Such precautions, adding to the nation's effective virus containment efforts at large, apparently help preserve the hustle and bustle of the water-town, which is increasingly known as a brainstorming hub for China's internet titans.

Especially worth nothing is that the scenic area of Wuzhen, adjoining the event venue, remains open to average travelers this year. The scenic area would normally be closed in the past.

At a time when the digital economy has played a pivotal role in helping pull the Chinese economy out of the COVID-19 impact, but when many countries are still at an economic standstill, holding of the expo not only shows China's determination to expand the digital economy, but also signals the primary focus of concern for the digital industry for the time being, which is how to strengthen cross-border cooperation.

On Wednesday, the organizing committee of the 2020 World Internet Conference published a proposal to set up a "community of shared future in cyberspace." 

In the proposal, the committee said that countries should cooperate in building of network infrastructure facilities such as international submarine cables. It also urged governments to guarantee an open, stable, and safe environment for the global information and communication industry chains. 

Experts noted that the removal of barriers in global digital industry is necessary to spur a post-pandemic economic recovery, as traditional economic sectors from trade to manufacturing will have to rely on digital means in the foreseeable future. 

"Talking about setting a shared cyberspace future was more like a vision in the past, but now it has become an urgent task as countries could no longer resort to many traditional industries for growth. If digital connection and cooperation are cut off, it would hurt global digital industries and in turn, the world's post-pandemic economic recovery," said Li Yi, a senior research fellow at the Internet Research Center of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. 

Zhang Yi, CEO of Guangzhou-based market research firm iiMedia Research, also said that China has set an example using the digital economy to turn the general economy around. "China's economy turned from negative to positive largely with help of the digital economy … why can't it be copied to other parts of the world?"

For that to happen, the world should jointly build rules in digital governance, while removing man-made barriers which still exist — like the US crackdown on Chinese technology companies, Zhang said. 

According to media reports, China's digital economy added value amounted to 35.8 trillion yuan ($5.46 trillion) in 2019, about 36.2 percent of the country's total GDP. 

Zhang noted that the digital economy could rise to about 50-55 percent of China's total economic output. "The industry has been laying its foundations in China in recent years, and its growth will accelerate in the next few years," he told the Global Times.