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Will China’s Technology Be a Game-Changer in the Post-Pandemic Era?

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Will China’s Technology Be a Game-Changer in the Post-Pandemic Era?

China’s tech sector is embracing automation and digitization just as the country transitions to the post-COVID era.

Will China’s Technology Be a Game-Changer in the Post-Pandemic Era?
Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz

As the world embarks on a new wave of technological revolution, digital technology has cemented its significant role in future development. Emerging technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things are being integrated further into industries and society, driving the digital transformation forward. As estimated by the World Economic Forum, 60 percent of global GDP will be digitized by 2022. A study by the Harvard Business Review identified that nearly 72 percent of companies are investing in digital transformation, up from 62 percent in 2020. Digital technology is widely recognized for its capacity to stimulate the global economy.

Within China, tech companies have been a significant contributor to the economy and social progress in recent years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese companies utilized a variety of technologies to address the public health emergency. According to the Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s data brief, titled “China’s Use of AI in its COVID-19 Response,” companies of all sizes in AI-related industries in China developed and modified AI systems for pandemic control and prevention.

During the early days of the pandemic, the Chinese e-commerce company (JD) deployed self-driving robots in Wuhan to deliver supplies to hospitals treating coronavirus patients. This helped reduce human contact and keep society functioning. Thanks to an AI algorithm developed by the Alibaba DAMO Academy, genetic analyses of possible cases were able to detect virus mutations with a high degree of accuracy. Previously, this process took several hours, but with the help of this algorithm, the time was reduced to half an hour.

In December 2022, amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 and medication shortages, Tencent launched the “COVID-19 Protection Drugs Public Welfare and Mutual Aid Platform” mini program to address the rising demand for analgesics and antipyretics. Those in need of medications can submit their information online, making resources readily available to those with dire needs.

As the world enters the post-pandemic era, China is seeing shifts in policies. During the annual Central Economic Work Conference held in Beijing on December 15 and 16, the committee collectively agreed that the nation’s economic performance is expected to improve next year. China will continue to support technological innovation, green development, and private enterprise, highlighting their central role in reviving the economy, stabilizing employment, and expanding international cooperation.

New trends are emerging in Chinese tech companies. First, they are digitizing traditional sectors, especially labor-intensive industries, in order to optimize their performances. While China has a relatively solid industrial base, there is still a significant need to introduce digital technology into many traditional industries.

Some Chinese tech giants have started empowering partners in the construction, agriculture, and machinery industries. Tencent Games and Tencent Cloud, in collaboration with Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd., created an “Immersive Convergence Digital Factory” using real-time cloud rendering, virtual-reality combination, AR/VR interaction, and other game technologies. This is the first time that Tencent Games applied its technology to the steel sector, raising standards for remote maintenance, production line operation, and production risk control.

IFlytek is able to diagnose crop diseases and predict the farming environment of crops by utilizing technologies such as speech recognition, image recognition, and big data analysis. It created a platform for intelligent agriculture that lets farmers use digital planting and breeding on a fine scale.

Second, Chinese tech companies are leveraging digital productivity to upgrade industries across sectors in the real economy. Since the real economy will be China’s focus in pursuing economic growth, the convergence of technology and the real economy will become a rising trend to watch.

The financial sector serves as a vital component alongside the real economy. Huawei provides robust financial infrastructure, constructs an intelligent architecture, and supports business innovation via its trusted networks, cloud, and databases in order to unleash the digital value of the finance industry. With cloud computing services, financial businesses are able to buy, sell, or distribute a variety of software and digital resources as an on-demand service on the internet, like electricity from a power grid.

International Data Corporation (IDC) has ranked Huawei Cloud as the market leader in China’s financial cloud infrastructure in 2021. Meanwhile, Huawei Cloud Stack has ranked first on China’s self-built financial cloud infrastructure market for four years running. This demonstrates Huawei’s major influence in the digital transformation of China’s financial sector.

The manufacturing sector serves as the backbone of the real economy, fostering economic growth. Tencent WeMake, an industrial internet platform, enables enterprises to build data-driven intelligent factories by modularizing and platformizing the industrial internet of things, cloud-native technology, and digital twins in order to intelligently transform manufacturing production and operations. It enhances the decision-making ability and operational efficiency of manufacturing enterprises.

According to Tencent’s Q4 2021 financial report, the revenue from fintech and ToB (business-to-business) services exceeded that from games for the first time, with ToB services as the tech giant’s largest revenue contributor. Tencent’s ToB arm, which empowers the real economy with digital technology, has already become a new profit-generating engine.

Chinese technology is taking a unique path that will have implications for both China and the rest of the world. Domestically, the rapid technological development and digital transformation of industries will contribute to China’s economic growth with an increase in employment and wealth. Globally, various nations might look to China for lessons on digital transformation when they try to develop new technological products and services.