The Development of China's New Generation Information Technology

Technology Author: Boying Ji Sep 21, 2023 11:46 PM (GMT+8)

​China has achieved impressive results in developing new-generation information technologies over a short time span due to strong central direction and coordinated domestic mobilization of capital, talent, and demand.

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Information technology continues to rapidly evolve and transform societies, economies, and daily life worldwide in profound ways. Emerging technologies converging from fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, 5G wireless networks, and quantum science together comprise a new generation of digital capabilities propelling global innovation and industry upgrade from manufacturing to healthcare according to EqualOcean.

While precise definitions vary, these new-generation information technologies generally encompass applications harnessing advanced computing power to automate complex decision-making, optimize industrial processes in real-time using streaming data, and securely connect trillions of internet-enabled devices supporting everything from smart cities to personalized education. In 2022, worldwide spending on new-generation IT technologies including connectivity infrastructure, data analytics services, and intelligent edge devices together neared $2 trillion dollars according to industry estimates highlighting both extensive demand and disruptive potential across all economic sectors.

Among nations leading the worldwide development and adoption of new-generation IT, China has mounted an ambitious strategic push to become a global pioneer in artificial intelligence and system-level applications according to official plans. Beginning in 2017, the State Council issued a detailed Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan targeting achievements such as surpassing all other countries in AI innovation and industrial capabilities by 2030. Since then, concentrated investments and policies have aimed to cultivate advanced technical talent and multi-billion dollar R&D hubs while also driving extensive private sector participation.

Domestically, leading Chinese technology corporations like Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, and Huawei have poured enormous resources into AI and machine learning research spanning areas from natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics to more futuristic applications involving quantum computing. Meanwhile, hundreds of smaller startups specifically focused on solving industrial or public sector challenges using next-generation IT have emerged rapidly, tapping both private venture capital and government-coordinated funding vehicles according to investment databases. Additionally, municipalities nationwide have promoted smart city projects applying the Internet of Things, edge analytics, and AI-driven decision support across transportation, healthcare, sustainability, and other municipal functions.

Internationally, Chinese champions are also aggressively expanding through production equipment exports, cloud platforms deployed overseas, and global partnerships aimed at applying AI and analytics on a mass scale. For instance, Tencent Cloud's services now span over 30 nations supporting both enterprise customers and public agencies in fields like transportation, environmental monitoring, and disaster response. Alibaba subsidiary Ant Financial has established AI labs together with international finance bodies seeking to foster financial inclusion through new technologies. Huawei Cloud focuses on 5G-enabled edge computing infrastructure with networks now extending to Europe, Africa, and the Americas participating in computational prototyping for a wide variety of industries according to stated goals.

However, China still faces long-term challenges sustaining technological supremacy according to many analysts. While early stages of development may leverage institutional and capital resources, ensuring continued independent progress requires advanced skills in basic scientific research, inventing disruptive architectures, and cultivating open communities fostering creativity still concentrated in areas like the United States and Europe according to studies. Additionally, data quality and access issues, rigid regulatory practices inhibiting risk-taking and security concerns especially when collaborating across borders introduce limitations that Chinese leaders openly acknowledge. Finally, as nations worldwide compete intensely to define norms guiding the responsible use of sensitive new capabilities, China's political system and strained relations with key partners could potentially complicate global standard-setting efforts according to policy experts.

China has achieved impressive results in developing new-generation information technologies over a short time span due to strong central direction and coordinated domestic mobilization of capital, talent, and demand. However, sustaining supremacy in an ever more globally collaborative and uncertain technological frontier will depend on adhering to principles of transparency, accountability, and principled partnerships vital for long-term progress and trust according to most informed observers. Selective opening alongside a commitment to international rules and democratic values represents the most constructive path for China to solidify widespread benefits from these generational breakthroughs shaping humanity's shared digital future. Success will require navigating challenges thoughtfully on all sides for the betterment of societies everywhere.

Some of the most nascent yet potentially transformative new generation technological domains like blockchain applications achieving distributed trust, quantum computing reaching pinnacles of computational acceleration beyond classic silicon, and synthetic biology precisely engineering living organisms all represent frontiers where meaningful progress still substantially relies on international cooperative frameworks and sharing of innovations more so than closed systems according to assessments. While Chinese government investments and corporate endeavors have launched ambitious long-term plans aiming to cultivate competitive positions, substantive results in these uncertain areas have so far remained limited compared to research networks transcending borders.

Similarly, despite large technical university populations centered in domestic hubs like Beijing and Shanghai specializing in artificial intelligence and related fields, competing with open innovation giants in attracting leading global researchers and entrepreneurs over the long run proves consistently difficult without reciprocally committing to values prioritizing speech freedoms, transparency, and mobile talent circulation according to analyses. Language barriers and geopolitical tensions have incrementally impeded flows while other regions proactively reform rules welcoming diverse thought and partnership.

Further considerations involve environmental sustainability responsibilities as exponential growth in data center deployment and electronics manufacturing necessary to support emerging technologies risks substantial energy usage and resource depletion if not paired with renewable infrastructure and circular economy principles according to audits. Global sharing of renewable solutions jointly with Northern nations represents a potential avenue for collaboration enhancing climate cooperation and long-term competitiveness at once.

Data governance remains a complex issue as major economies espouse relatively divergent philosophies towards issues like cross-border data flows, government access provisions for lawful restrictions, and treatment of personal versus non-personal information that could unintentionally fragment emerging platforms if left unaddressed according to analysts. Harmonizing approaches globally while simultaneously respecting justified priorities around national security, privacy norms, and societal values represents an ongoing challenge where policy dialogues breaking down misconceptions to find common ground and interoperable solutions aligned with international human rights standards are important to enable collaborative progress.

Mitigating potential harms like bias, discrimination and unequal access to new technologies' benefits has also emerged as a universal priority for governments and civil society aligned with the United Nations' sustainability development goals. While the Chinese government and industry have participated constructively in such discussions and launched experimental local programs applying techniques like algorithmic fairness to spheres such as lending, increasing transparency regarding data used and independent oversight remains an area requiring ongoing commitment according to observers to fully reassure the public.

Meanwhile, geopolitical fluctuations and rising strategic competition introduce disruptions complicating long-term planning for supply chains upon which new generation technologies fundamentally rely according to analyses. Pursuing multi-sourcing strategies wherever practicable to proactively address potential single-point failures while simultaneously strengthening transparency, accountability, and adherence to the rule of law helps address concerns and reassure partners in an uncertain environment.

Regulating systems of such sensitivity also presents challenges regardless of the specific cultural-political context. Balancing oversight with nimbleness necessary for rapid innovation cycles demands an evolutionary stance prioritizing risk management, objective impact assessments, and cooperation across authorities according to experts to avoid unintentionally curbing progress or eroding foundationals like personal agency.