Chairman and CEO of Baidu Robin Li addresses attendees of the 2020 Smart China Expo Online remotely, Sept. 15. (Photo courtesy of the event's organizing committee)
On Tuesday, during an online summit at this year's Smart China Expo Online, China's digital heavyweights shed light on the huge potential for the sector to shape the future.
"Amongst all the uncertainties facing us, digitalization is a huge opportunity and is by far the most concrete," said Jack Ma in a video screened during the event.
Ma, who now serves as the co-chair on the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation since retiring as Alibaba's chairman, urged industries to enhance their digital technology research capacities to further reduce costs in publicity, labor, and management. The biggest beneficiary, as Ma puts, in the process of digitalization, is not internet companies but rather companies that use the internet as a tool to improve themselves. "Every traditional industry has a chance to become a modern one driven by technologies," Ma said.
Over the years, China has worked to develop its digital economy, which not only refers to the industrialized digital sector but also the digitalized transformation of many traditional industries. A white paper released in July of this year showed that the country's digital economy in 2019 was worth 35.8 trillion yuan (about US$5.07 trillion), up by 15.6% last year.
The 2020 Smart China Expo thus provides a platform to showcase the latest technologies both at home and abroad and helps to narrow the global digital divide, empower economy, and enrich day-to-day life.
Regarding employment in the context of the digital economy, Ma believes that future jobs will mainly be created in the service sector instead of in manufacturing industries. Ma thus calls for reforms in education that will allow talent to be more adaptable to emerging technologies and the changes that they will bring.
"Digital technologies will change the very nature of all sectors that we currently know," says Robin Li, chairman and CEO of Baidu. Li hopes that in ten years, traffic congestion can be basically eliminated and traffic accidents will be greatly reduced via digital means.
Li elaborated on Baidu's role in the sector, saying that the internet giant aims to make AI platforms available to all in order to build connectivity and help improve AI infrastructure for China's digital agenda.
Similar to Baidu, China's another tech giant Tencent has emphasized development in the industrial internet field. Chairman and CEO Pony Ma Huateng noted during the summit that the integration between the real and digital economy will take place at each step in the process. "People's producing and living activities will be reshaped by digitalization," Ma said, addressing the summit remotely.
Co-hosted by southwest China's Chongqing and Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTII), the 2020 Smart China Expo Online commenced on Sept. 15.