Five second-tier cities－Chengdu, Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan and Xi'an－are representative on the Chinese mainland in terms of their rapidly growing skills base in the digital economy, according to a report released on Wednesday.
These cities displayed an obvious advantage in their digital talent pools over others in the past three years, although Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou, which is the base of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, remain the five leading cities in this area, according to the report based on user data by LinkedIn, a US-based networking website.
The number of such talent in Chengdu, for example, which took the sixth place in the rankings of the cities, was nearly 18,500. It compared to 10,000 and 8,200－the number of such talents in Dalian and Tianjin, which followed the top 10 cities.
Shanghai topped the rankings with 122,000 people with skills in the field, accounting for nearly 17 percent of the national total, the report showed.
Digital talents in those fast growing cities showed distinctive features, according to the report co-conducted by the Center for Internet Development and Governance under the School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University and LinkedIn China.
In Suzhou, neighboring Shanghai, the number of talents in industries such as manufacturing, medicine, and architecture, with the integration of digital technology, is much higher than that in the basic industries of information, communications and technology, while in most other cities more than half of such talents are in ICT sectors.
The report showed that the number of such talents in manufacturing industry alone comprised 45 percent of the total in Suzhou, far surpassing those in ICT industries, which accounted for 28 percent.
It is closely related to the strategic positioning of the economic development of the city, which began focusing on manufacturing since 1994, said Chen Yubo, director of the CIDG.
"More than 100 of the Fortune 500 companies have built their factories in Suzhou and the city's innovation clusters, including an international technology park and eco-tech area, have taken shape and attracted more than 300 research institutions and high and new tech enterprises," he said.
In Chengdu, such talents also converged in the consumer goods and entertainment industries, besides manufacturing and finance.
Experts said they believed the distribution of digital talents in the country will become more equal.
LinkedIn statistics found earlier this year that talents in artificial intelligence accounted for only 17 percent of the total in the United States, and the rest scattered fairly equally all over the country, said Wang Di, vice-president of LinkedIn China.
"We'll see the rise of around 10 emerging cities (in China) that will be pioneering in digital-driven development," he said.
The report also found shortcomings in the current structure of digital talents as more than 85 percent of them specialize in product research and development, while those engaged in big data analysis, advanced manufacturing, and digital marketing accounted for less than 5 percent of the total.
"We believe the number of talents in these domains will rise quickly in the coming decade in response to the high market demand as the integration of digital technology into traditional industries will continue to be an important driving force of China's economic growth," Chen said.