October 18, 2023
BEIJING – Digital cooperation between China and other countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, which has been deepening in recent years, is aiding the development of the digital economy and trade, and facilitating global economic recovery, experts said.
Noting that the BRI economies have come together in recent times to create an open, fair, equitable and nondiscriminatory environment for the development of the digital economy, the experts said these countries and regions have strengthened cooperation on rules and standards, and have also been promoting regional policy coordination in the past decade.
Cong Liang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic regulator, said at a recent news conference that substantial progress has been made in advancing cooperation on the digital economy among BRI economies.
“More efforts will be made to encourage Chinese and foreign enterprises to engage in high-quality cooperation in areas such as e-commerce, mobile payments, smart cities, remote healthcare, digital education and industrial transformation,” Cong said.
Digital technologies will be utilized to promote high-quality economic development and improve livelihoods, so that all BRI economies can help their people enjoy the dividends of the digital economy.
According to a white paper released recently by the State Council Information Office, by the end of 2022, China had signed memorandums of understanding on building the Digital Silk Road with 17 countries, on e-commerce cooperation with 30 countries, and on closer investment cooperation in the digital economy with 18 countries and regions.
China is also actively strengthening digital infrastructure connectivity and stepping up work on digital corridors. Work on laying several international submarine cables has made substantial progress, with 130 cross-border terrestrial cable systems already built.
The SEA-H2X submarine cable project is a case in point. Initiated by China Unicom, a major State-owned telecom carrier, the project has attracted many international companies.
Construction work began in May 2022 and operations are scheduled to begin in 2024. It will connect the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Hainan province of China with the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The project may further extend to Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.
Upon completion, the subsea cable project can effectively meet the demand for network bandwidth in Asia, accelerating the digital industrialization and digitization of industries in Asia and the world, China Unicom said.
Aye Aye Myint, an employee of China Unicom’s local unit in Myanmar, has been involved in a submarine cable project that connects China and Myanmar. “This long submarine cable not only brings information and communication services to various destinations, but also strengthens ties between China and overseas Chinese like me,” she said.
China Unicom’s unit in Myanmar not only serves Chinese companies that expand into the Southeast Asian country, but offers better network services to local government agencies and enterprises, she added.
Besides building digital infrastructure, many Chinese companies also offer digital services worldwide. By the end of September, China had established bilateral mechanisms of e-commerce cooperation with 30 countries on five continents, according to the white paper.
Many events held to promote multilateralism, such as the Silk Road E-commerce Platform of the Brand, the Quality Online Shopping Festival and the Quality African Products Online Shopping Festival, have produced encouraging results, and virtual country pavilions online help partner economies to export their high-quality specialty products to the Chinese market.
The innovative Cloud Classroom program has provided live-streamed training sessions to more than 80 BRI economies to reinforce their digital literacy, the white paper stated.
Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecommunications industry association in China, said the country’s edge in digital technologies and applications can help people in other countries enjoy the fruits of technological advancements in a better way.