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China highlights data and ‘digital silk road’ in new plan to drive innovation as US tech rivalry intensifies

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The plan was released by the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Data Administration (NDA), and excerpts were made public on the NDA’s WeChat account on Monday.

China’s new data agency plans fast track to powerful national computing network

The NDA is supervised by the NDRC, China’s top economic planner, and was inaugurated in October as Beijing sought to pump up a faltering economy through innovation amid growing competition for hi-tech dominance with the US.
Data authorities will advance the digital transformation of industries, improve competitiveness of core industries, nurture new business models and increase protections against online security risks, according to the work plan.

China will also increase cross-agency coordination to better monitor the digital economy, the plan said.

Another focus of the NDA’s work will be accelerating the sharing of public data among government departments and improving care for seniors, education, medical care and other services through better use of data, it said.

Why China’s new data agency shows ambitions to develop digital economy and AI

In an article in Communist Party theoretical journal Qizhi last week, NDA chief Liu Liehong praised Xi Jinping for making several “strategic deployments” based on his insights into trends in technological innovation, the demands of China’s rejuvenation and sweeping changes in the international environment.

Liu added that focusing on digital innovation, the commercialisation of data and digitalisation of industry would create “new space for China’s economic development”.

Liu noted that the computing capacity at China’s data centres was expanding, and efficiency had improved thanks to the Eastern Data and Western Computing project, launched in 2022 to address regional imbalances in digital resources.

During his visit to the southwestern megacity of Chongqing last week, Xi toured its digital city operation centre, which monitors emergencies and coordinates between municipal departments. While there, he urged local officials to “scientifically design big data platforms and network systems” and make better use of data to improve governance.

China generated more than 8.1 zettabytes of data in 2022, placing it second only to the US, according to the Cyber­space Administration of China. The country also ranked second in aggregated computing power – particularly important to scientific research, data analysis, simulation and machine learning – and aims to scale up its capacity by 50 per cent by 2025.

Beijing promotes China-led vision for Digital Silk Road at Xian forum

China has signed several strategic deals with Belt and Road Initiative members aimed at cooperation in areas from e-commerce to digital infrastructure, according to Wang Yong, vice-chairman of China’s top political advisory body, speaking at the Digital Silk Road Development Forum in the northwestern city of Xian last week.

Launched in 2015, the Digital Silk Road aims to boost digital connectivity in countries involved in the belt and road, Beijing’s strategy to improve trade and economic integration across Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.

Wang said China would work with these countries to develop an “open and inclusive digital economy”.

Meeting his Bolivian counterpart Celinda Sosa Lunda in Beijing on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two countries should explore the potential for cooperation in areas including the digital economy, information and communication while protecting the common interests of the Global South and strengthening political mutual trust.

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