China sees robust development of digital economy

A 5G automatic-following dolly is exhibited at the Exposition to World Digital Economy Conference 2020 & the 10th China Smart City and Intelligent Economy Expo held in Ningbo, east China’s Zhejiang province, Sept. 11. By Zhang Yongtao, People’s Daily Online

Every day there are huge data being transmitted on China’s optical fiber broadband network and 4G network, the largest of their kind in the world, reflecting the rich online activities of over 900 million Chinese internet users.

The period between 8:00 am to 10:00 is usually peak hours for online news reading, and many would choose to order meals on their phones about one or two hours later. Before getting off work in the evening, some of them would pay for the commodities they have already added to their virtual shopping carts, while the rush hours of short video and social media apps always come at around 10:00 in the night.

Behind this splendid internet lifestyle are smooth networks and efficient services. As of August 2020, the per capita data consumption in China had hit 11 gigabytes. The country has an above-average network speed for both its fixed broadband and mobile networks, but its internet fees have be reduced by over 90 percent compared with those five years ago.

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which charted the course for the country’s development between 2016 and 2020, for the first time raised a clear target for internet penetration – introducing fixed broadband network to 70 percent of the country’s households and mobile network to 85 percent of its residents.

Thanks to the constant improvement of internet infrastructure, technological innovation and continuously optimized services, the target had already been achieved and even over-fulfilled in advance.

Maping of Xiangyang, central China’s Hubei province, is a village situated at an average altitude of 1,100 meters where huge mountains hinder the stability of network signals, so online classes were always hard to be accessed by local students. After this year’s Spring Festival, the employees from Xiangyang branch of China Unicom, one of the largest three communication carriers in China, transported devices weighing hundreds of kilograms to the village and managed to build a new base station in just four days. The online classes, simultaneously attended by hundreds of millions of students during China’s epidemic prevention and control period were an epitome of the country’s improved network infrastructure and technical capabilities.

China has established the world’s largest optical fiber broadband and mobile communication networks. More than 93 percent of internet users are optical fiber broadband subscribers, and those using 4G make up 80 percent of all mobile phone users. More than 98 percent of administrative villages have access to fiber optic cables and 4G service, and 99 percent of impoverished villages are covered by optical fiber broadband network.

The network construction is continuously narrowing the digital gap. Even Sansha, south China’s Hainan province, one of the youngest cities in China, has covered all of its inhabited islands with 5G network.

A woman surnamed Chen living in Chongming Zhuyuan residential complex in Wuhan, Hubei province would always place two to three orders on online grocery platforms everyday recently. The orders she placed were delivered to where she lives, so she didn’t have to go to the vegetable market or supermarket. So far, three community-based group buying platforms have been launched in Chen’s residential complex, which enable residents to receive their orders they placed online the next day in a convenient store near their residence.

“These platforms, on which we can compare their products and services, offer us more choices, and the price is also reasonable,” Chen told People’s Daily

Mobile applications and services are also gaining speed in this express road of internet. According to latest statistics, there are more than 3.6 million mobile applications offering abundant internet services. At the beginning of this year, the users of online education, government affairs, online payment, online videos, online shopping, instant messengers, online music and search engines expanded over 10 percent from those at the end of 2018.

Instant messengers, short video platforms and livestream applications lowered the threshold for internet, enriching people’s cultural and entertainment activities, while online government affairs are focusing on addressing the practical demand of the people.

Internet serves its users, and the huge amount of internet users also make a vast consumption market, laying a solid foundation for digital economy.

As of June this year, China had 940 million internet users, 749 million of whom had shopped online. The total online shopping transaction hit 10.63 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) in 2019, marking a year-on-year growth of 16.5 percent. By the end of September, 130 million terminals have been connected to 5G network. In addition, China is also home to over 70 industrial internet platforms that serve more than 400,000 enterprises.

The prospering digital economy has become a new growth point for China’s economic development, and the firm base of industrial digitalization and digital industrialization is also injecting new impetus to high-quality development.