Nation's tech role shifting as it becomes a pacesetter

By Edward Tse | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-01-18 09:01
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A robot dances to music at the China Science and Technology Museum on Dec 30, 2021. [Photo/IC]

Most people now recognize China's ability to innovate and its status as a top global digital economy.

Since the late 2000s, many companies have taken advantage of the growing wireless internet in China to develop innovative business models. With the emergence of newer technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, blockchain and cloud computing, the nation has entered a new phase of technological innovation.

Coupled with the government's latest policies announced as part of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), technological self-sufficiency has become a national imperative for the Chinese. To that end, the focus of innovation is now shifting from consumer internet-driven areas to "hard tech" ones such as high-end semiconductor chips, precision and intelligent manufacturing, robotics and life sciences. In financial technology, the central bank digital currency has also become a priority.

Not too long ago, products made by Chinese companies were ridiculed as shanzhai, portrayed as being of low quality and lacking originality. Few expected the Chinese to turn around so quickly and become innovators in their own right. This prompted Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, to say," (China's) technology is generations ahead of what is possible in the West."

This new era is epitomized not only by which technologies are being adopted or in which sectors innovations are happening, but also by how China is shifting from being a technology standards follower to a pacesetter and one setting global standards.

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