Live streamer Tan Jiajia (right) promotes and sells local agricultural specialties via livestreaming at an online platform in Tongliang district of Southwest China's Chongqing municipality, Sept 2, 2020. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Chinese platform companies are doubling down on cutting-edge digital technologies to seek new drivers in revenue growth and bolster industrial upgrade, as the country puts greater emphasis on promoting the in-depth integration of the digital and real economies, experts and company executives said.
Despite the gloomy global outlook and mounting uncertainties, China's platform economy is playing an increasingly vital role in propelling technological innovation and high-quality development, as well as giving strong impetus to economic recovery worldwide, they added.
Emerging digital technologies, such as AI, cloud computing, 5G, big data and the internet of things, are gaining momentum and finding a wide range of applications across various industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture.
Long Haibo, a senior researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, China’s Cabinet
During an earnings conference with investors via telephone on Thursday, Zhang Yong, chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, said that cloud computing is one of the company's core strategies for the future, and Alibaba Cloud is also the foundation through which the company serves the real economy and drives the integration of the digital and real economies.
Noting that this is a critical period for technological breakthroughs and development in cloud computing and artificial intelligence, Zhang said he believed in the vast potential of industrial digitalization and the role of cloud computing as the pivot of the digital economy.
Revenue in the cloud business, Alibaba's main growth driver besides e-commerce, reached 20.18 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) during the October-December period, an increase of 3 percent year-on-year, mainly driven by public cloud growth.
The company is ramping up efforts to make use of digital technologies to help small and medium-sized enterprises and speed up industrial transformation in an effort to better empower the real economy.
The tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December said that platform companies will be supported to "fully display their capabilities" in bolstering economic growth, job creation and international competition. The conference also emphasized the need to vigorously develop the digital economy.
Platform enterprises, which are among the key enablers of technological innovation, will usher in a new round of development, fueled by the government's support for the platform economy, said Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Center at Zhejiang University's International Business School.
They are expected to play a bigger role in stabilizing economic growth, optimizing the allocation of resources, improving people's livelihoods and expanding employment, as well as invest more in state-of-the-art technologies that serve the real economy, Pan added.
Xu Lei, CEO of Chinese e-commerce platform JD, said he has full confidence in China's economic recovery this year as the country accelerates its push to integrate digital technologies with the real economy.
"Looking ahead, we will further increase investment, strengthen our capacities in supply chain infrastructure and promote the transformation and upgrading of more traditional industries," Xu said.
JD has invested more than 90 billion yuan in basic science and technology R&D, and is committed to building smart supply chain systems.
"Emerging digital technologies, such as AI, cloud computing, 5G, big data and the internet of things, are gaining momentum and finding a wide range of applications across various industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture," said Long Haibo, a senior researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, China's Cabinet.
Facilitating the development of platform companies and the digital economy is of great significance in cultivating new driving forces, pushing forward intelligent transformation in enterprises and fostering high-quality and innovation-driven development, Long said.
The senior researcher added that further efforts are needed to pool more resources in core technologies and gain a competitive edge in key fields.
The scale of China's digital economy reached 45.5 trillion yuan in 2021, ranking second in the world and accounting for 39.8 percent of the country's GDP, according to a white paper released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
Ding Lei, CEO of Chinese internet and online gaming services provider NetEase, said the company has invested heavily in AI, digital twin, blockchain and other frontier technologies, as part of a broader push to continuously bolster the integration of the real and digital economies and to support the development of intelligent manufacturing.