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Local Governments in China Focus on Digital Technology to Drive Growth

Over the past weeks, leaders of China’s provincial-level regions held their annual legislative and political consultative meetings, known as “two sessions.” Economic data from the meetings revealed that various parts of China have recovered steadily from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What many of these provincial leaders realise is that high-tech industries have played an increasingly important role in driving these economic growths. As a result, China’s local governments are pinning high hopes on the development of new sectors such as AI and quantum information.

For instance, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Hubei Province reached 5 trillion yuan (US$ 789 billion) last year, a new height for the province once hard hit by the epidemic. Describing the year as “extraordinary and challenging,” Wang Zhonglin, governor of Hubei, said it was a year full of achievements in post-pandemic recovery.

Another example is the GDP of Guangdong, a city in south China’s Guangdong Province, which surpassed one trillion yuan (US$ 158 billion) in 2021. Guangdong now has four cities in the “one trillion yuan club.” The GDP of the province itself exceeded 12 trillion yuan (US$ 1.89 trillion) for the first time, leading all provincial-level regions.

Seeing how they have played a key role in their growth, local governments are now bent on further developing emerging technologies.

Beijing municipal government targets launching 20 major application scenarios in order to promote the formation of industrial clusters catering to the blockchain, artificial intelligence, extended reality and ultra-high-definition display.

Zhejiang Province in east China is set to promote the development of future industries such as brain-like intelligence and quantum information. Further, the province already known for its strong digital economy will strive to increase the added value of the core industries of the digital economy by as much as 12%.

Moreover,  the development of a digital economy has also been seen as a transformative force, upgrading existing traditional industries.

Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality plans to speed up the intelligent transformation of production equipment and key industrial chains. It is eyeing to cultivate 10 new smart factories and 100 digital workshops.

There were many cutting-edge technologies and new concepts discussed. Metaverse, however, has become one of the most widely mentioned in the discussions of local lawmakers and political advisors.

“The concept of metaverse can be regarded as the comprehensive development and innovative extension of the digital economy,” said Tong Zhilei, a deputy to the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress.

Wasting no time, some regions are already setting things in motion. Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province, plans to cultivate a group of leading enterprises in frontier industries such as metaverse in the next five years. For its province, Wuhan, capital of Hubei, aims to build a national pilot zone on new-generation AI through the integration of the metaverse, big data, cloud computing and blockchain with the real economy.

China’s local governments are bouncing back from the pandemic. And digital technology is playing a major role in their planned growth. The numbers speak for themselves. With both local and national leaders looking up to emerging technologies, the country’s economy has been on the up and up — churning out healthier numbers than before when the COVID-19 epidemic was in full swing.

Recently, as reported on OpenGov Asia, a new state-backed 5G carrier is set to open cellphone registration this year, a telltale sign of growth in the digital arena. That should allow more and more people to enjoy the benefits of digital technology.

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