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China’s Blue Book on internet development shows rapid progress

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Macquarie Asset Management and UniSuper, a UBS managed infrastructure fund, paid about $2 billion for Axicom, formerly Crown Castle’s Australian portfolio of 1,700 mobile communication towers, in 2015. File photo: AFP.

(ATF) Internet development in China over the past year saw a number of milestones, with more than 100 million 5G online terminal connections and 100% localization of components for the Beidou-3 satellite navigation system, which has a positioning accuracy of better than 10 metres.

Those landmarks and more – such as more than 480,000 5G base stations built across the country – are described in the annual Blue Book published by the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace Studies.

The book has two parts – the World Internet Development Report 2020 and China Internet Development Report 2020 – both of which were released during the annual World Internet Conference, held virtually this week in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province.

Xia Xueping, dean of the institute, launching the Blue Book to coincide with the conference, said that China has accelerated the construction of network infrastructure, and new infrastructure, such as 5G networks and data centres, has developed rapidly through technological breakthroughs.

The number of artificial intelligence patent applications filed in China has surpassed that of the United States for the first time, enabling China to become the world leader in that field, Xia said. The digital economy is developing vigorously, he added, saying the scale of industrial digitisation and digital industrialisation continues to expand.

Xia noted that China’s digital economy, with an estimated value of 35.8 trillion yuan, ranks among the largest in the world. Online sectors, from education to healthcare, as well as videos, live-streaming and other entertainment such as games and music, and home-based work are among the new growth engines of the Chinese economy.

Fibre to all urban, rural areas

To help ensure all those sectors stay interconnected, China has built one of the world’s largest optical fibre networks. According to the Blue Book, as of the end of May, the total number of optical fibre ports in China has reached 850 million, while the optical fibre network covers all urban and rural areas. More than 93% of Chinese broadband users access through optical fibre – the highest proportion in the world.

The satellite industry is also developing steadily, with as many as 10 low-orbit projects and more than 30 networks underway, the Blue Book stated. On June 23, the Beidou-3 global satellite navigation system was launched, which can provide navigation, positioning, and international search and rescue services. Related products have been exported to more than 120 countries and regions.

In terms of 5G construction, 2020 has been a critical year. With such a huge rise in base stations and terminal connections, the data centre industry is developing rapidly. In 2019, there were about 74,000 data centres in China, accounting for 23% of the global total. The market size now exceeds 156.2 billion yuan, Blue Book data indicated.

Xia said the strategic deployment of the industrial Internet continues to advance, and the overall economic scale of the industrial internet industry in 2019 was 2.13 trillion yuan. According to statistics from 2020, one-third of the global 5G network will come from Chinese technology.

In terms of computer chip technology, memory chips have achieved technological breakthroughs, Xia said. Yangtze River Storage Technology has successfully developed 128-layer flash memory chips, and domestic flash memory technology has become world-class in terms of quality and efficiency. Artificial intelligence (AI) chips have made significant progress, and the market has continued to expand to exceed 5 billion yuan.

Xia pointed out that China also exceeded the US in the number of AI-related patent filings in 2019, with 110,000 applications.

The development of the basic software ecology is accelerating, server operating systems have become competitive, and development of desktop and terminal operating systems has made progress, he said, adding that Huawei’s micro-kernel-based HarmonyOS is expected to break the near-monopoly of the Android operating system in the domestic mobile phone market.


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Chris Gill

With over 30 years reporting on China, Gill offers a daily digest of what is happening in the PRC.


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