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Digital Solutions for China’s Industries in the New Normal

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China’s industries felt the pinch of the pandemic as cities struggled to cope with a more contagious COVID-19 virus strain early this year. Increasingly, however, digital offered solutions that are now becoming more apparent paving the way for a faster digital transformation for these firms.

The textile sector’s digitalisation drive offers a glimpse into how Chinese manufacturers, especially those in traditional industries, are striving to weather economic hardships by embracing the trend. An example is one of China’s textile companies which has found it challenging as it now faces the protracted impact of COVID-19. However, in the eyes of the industry veteran, burgeoning digital technologies offer a ray of hope for his company and even the whole textile sector. As the pandemic lingers, he is still concerned about challenges. But, looking to the future, the seasoned businessman remains confident and energetic. Rather than waiting and being reactive, we need to be proactive, he said.

Indeed, digital adoption has increased as the virus pummels its way through China’s cities. Another manufacturing company in Zhejiang province, a manufacturing base in East China, has vowed to channel more energy to digital fronts this year.

As many fell victim to the advance of a more contagious version of the virus, one by one, ambitious plans have been hammered out by China’s industries to push forward transformation. An industry stalwart said his company will leverage live-streaming platforms to expand sales and explore the application of the industrial internet in production lines to lower operating costs.

Fast-developing digital technologies from Big Data to 5G are now widespread in the manufacturing sector and are reshaping the broader economic landscape. In 2020 when the virus was in full swing, China’s digital economy rose 9.7% year-on-year to 39.2 trillion yuan (US$ 6.16 trillion), accounting for 38.6% of the country’s total GDP.

For manufacturers, in particular, digitalisation means decreased information asymmetry and increased supply chain transparency, enabling quality growth and allowing for better responses to market fluctuations.

During recent COVID-19 resurgences, the role of digitalisation has become even more crucial in ensuring a dynamic and disruption-free real economy. As the highly contagious Omicron variant has caused COVID-19 flareups in multiple regions across the country, parts of industrial chains have come under enormous pressure. In hard-hit cities, the flow of goods was congested for some small and medium-sized enterprises until intelligent transport technologies smoothed supply networks.

Through digital coordination among merchants, warehouses, operations and other links, products stored in different places can be deployed efficiently and supply chain performance can be guaranteed at a maximum level, Ma said.

At recent meetings, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has, in particular, urged efforts to make good use of 5G, the industrial internet and other digital technologies to help enterprises resolve difficulties and stabilise industrial and supply chains.

Given the increasingly significant role of digital technologies, increased policy support is in the pipeline. The need for a rapid digital transformation of the industries has caught the eye of Beijing. This year’s Government Work Report also included support for the digital sector.

We will strengthen overall planning for the Digital China initiative, build more digital information infrastructure, develop an integrated national system of Big Data centres step by step and apply 5G technology on a larger scale.

– Government Work Report

MIIT chief engineer Tian Yulong has said that a digital transformation action plan is unfolding, including trials aimed at further combining information technology and manufacturing prowess.

China’s digital transformation has been anything but slow. Its Big Data investments, for instance, have increased in recent years spurred by the virus advance. So much so that China’s biggest cities are some of the biggest adopters of the latest emerging tech to hit town, the metaverse, as reported on OpenGov Asia.


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