The “Digital Silk Road” creates new opportunities

Lin Zihan

On June 23, 2020, China successfully launched Beidou-3, the latest global network satellite, with a Long March-3B rocket, at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Photo: Liu Huaiyu, People’s Daily Online

Since the official construction proposal in 2017, the “Digital Silk Road” advocated by China has continued to help countries along the “Belt and Road” to promote the construction of digital infrastructure, increase the Internet penetration rate and promote digital network interconnection, with the aim of contributing to the economic growth and digitization of the relevant countries. The transformation creates new opportunities and continuously promotes innovation and development by building the “One Belt One Road” initiative.

The digital economy is an important driver of global economic growth and recovery and one of the main areas of cooperation in global development initiatives. To promote the construction of the “Digital Silk Road”, China has a good industrial base and a wide market space.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, from 2017 to 2021, China’s digital economy has grown from 27 trillion yuan to more than 45 trillion yuan, ranking second in the world with a compound annual growth rate of 13.6%. . According to a report recently released by the Cyberspace Administration of China, China’s ability to innovate in digital technology has improved rapidly in recent years. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, blockchain and quantum information in China are ranked first in the world.

Based on this, China’s digital economic cooperation with countries and regions along the “Belt and Road” continues to deepen and share development dividends. China has signed memorandums of understanding on cooperation on the “Digital Silk Road” with 17 countries, established a bilateral cooperation mechanism “Electronic trade of the Silk Road” with 23 countries, and laid a total of 34 terrestrial cross-border communication cables with neighboring countries.

In recent years, China’s information technology, software and hardware products and services have been widely used in the markets of countries and regions along the “Belt and Road”, and various cooperation projects have been implemented, playing a leading role at the local level. .

Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba and Baidu have made major inroads into the business and telecommunications markets on the African continent. At the same time, there is Huawei, which is considered by industry experts to be the global leader in 5G networks and one of the world’s largest suppliers of telecommunications equipment. In 2018, Huawei became one of the first fully foreign technology companies in Qatar, promoting the development of local 5G technology. In 2019, Huawei signed a cooperation agreement with Zain, a major Saudi telecom operator, to build the first 5G LAN project in the Middle East and North Africa. Several UAE telcos have also collaborated with Huawei on 5G network services. Huawei launched the North Africa Open Lab in Cairo, Egypt, and the research and development center has partnered with several universities to provide training to local students.

In Kenya, a “mobile wallet” app developed in cooperation between China and Africa has become an indispensable tool for local users to transfer, pay, receive and borrow. With the support of Chinese technicians, the application works stably, and business performance has improved significantly. According to data released by Kenyan telecom operators in March this year, “Mobile Wallet” has 30 million monthly active users in Kenya.

China’s “Beidou” satellite navigation system also participates in the sectors of agriculture, telecommunications, maritime surveillance and disaster relief along the “Belt and Road”. According to reports, China has exported products related to the Beidou satellite system to about 120 countries and regions, including member countries of the “Beid and Road” initiative. Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Laos are actively using the Beidou satellite system in agriculture. China has established a network of Beidou navigation system ground stations in Pakistan.

Currently, some countries and regions along the “Belt and Road” still face problems such as weak digital infrastructure and low Internet access. China has intensified its efforts to support these countries and regions in building digital infrastructure, and it needs to create new opportunities and growth points for their economic development. Currently, the first independent commercial 5G network in Africa has been built by South Africa in collaboration with China. Senegal’s National Data Center is also funded and technically supported by China

In January 2022, the State Council issued the “14th Five-Year Plan for the Development of the Digital Economy”, proposing to support Chinese digital economy companies to “go global” and actively participate in international cooperation. In the future, China will increase international cooperation in the digital economy and create a favorable environment for the “globalization” of the digital industry, further improving the institutional environment. “China has made efforts to solve complex problems related to the digital economy and can bring solutions to global development,” said an article on the official website of the World Economic Forum.

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