Where the high-tech and the ancient thrive in harmony

By Cao Yin (China Daily) Updated : 2016-11-17

I arrived in rain-washed Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on Monday evening. The shuttle bus ride from the railway station in Tongxiang-the nearest to Wuzhen-to my hotel afforded me images of the town shrouded in mist. Wuzhen appeared mysterious and energetic indeed.

The town, known for its waterways, is hosting the World Internet Conference for the third time. And I'm here for a third time to cover the annual event.

That has made me a witness to the changes the town has undergone over the years. Those changes have much to do with Wuzhen hosting the annual event. There are many businesses here that are related to the event.

As a conference regular, I'm familiar with the nitty-gritty: how to register online for the event, how much extra time is to be reserved to take part in a panel discussion and such. Yet, each conference's topics, focus areas and activities tend to be different, making me feel like a rookie reporter.

The conference venue in Wuzhen remains the same, but fresh attractions always cheer me up, encouraging me to keep learning and writing about the new developments.

In 2014, the conference host, the Cyberspace Administration of China, announced that the town had been covered with free Wi-Fi, to make it easier for journalists and guests to communicate with the rest of the world.

But the benefits of free access to the internet were far-reaching. In a sense, it was a perfect combination of the high-tech and the ancient in this town. For the first time, many industries got an opportunity to further expand their reach through cyberspace.

The advance of new communications technologies in this ancient town appears relentless. I'm now accustomed to using nifty network devices here. But then, Wuzhen surprises me every time it hosts the conference with the launch of a large number of high-tech products and online services.

This year, smart robots powered by artificial intelligence are demonstrating how they are changing the world and what more contributions they will make to people's lives.

Jiang Yong, founder of itslaw.com, a web-based legal services provider, said the internet seems to be entering a new era as the first step toward connecting various industries online has been completed.

"What we'll or should do in the near future is to apply these artificially intelligent products to our life... serve more people," Jiang said. "For example, use the internet in medical care or lawsuits."

Itslaw.com's new product, Faxiaotao, is an AI-based legal robot. It can help people and enterprises to seek lawyers by analyzing an attorney's database. "Similar products will appear, and more related talents, I believe, will help power the internet's second stage of evolution," he said.

In addition, cyberspace governance has created new hopes, particularly those related to security. The conference has had spirited discussions on China's first Cybersecurity Law, which was adopted earlier this month, and related issues.

Li Yuxiao, secretary-general of the Cybersecurity Association of China, said the law is a milestone legislation. "It's gladdening to see the law grows out of nothing."