China's digital economy on the rise: new engine, new opportunities

Updated 2018-03-02 00:10:01 Xinhua

With a fortune of 295 billion yuan (about 46.6 billion U.S. dollars), Ma Huateng, founder and CEO of internet giant Tencent, is now the wealthiest person in China.

The business leader, also known as Pony Ma, has jumped 23 places to be ranked 15th globally, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2018 released on Wednesday.

Behind the rise of Ma and his company is China's flourishing digital economy, which has been a story of commercial success.

Tencent and Alibaba are China's top two companies in terms of market value, a stark contrast to just five years ago when no internet companies even made the top 10.

The digital economy is not only reshaping the Chinese economy and changing people's day-to-day life, but also creating enormous business opportunities for foreign companies.

NEW ENGINE RESHAPING THE ECONOMY

A booming digital economy is reshaping China's economic landscape as technology such as big data and AI revives traditional industries and casts new light on high-quality development.

China's digital economy totaled 26 trillion yuan in 2017, accounting for around 32 percent of national GDP, according to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. Its 18-percent growth substantially outpaced the overall economy, which grew 6.9 percent in 2017.

The trend is likely to continue in the future and the value of China's digital economy is expected to hit 16 trillion U.S. dollars by 2035.

"China is already more digitalized than many observers appreciate and has the potential to set the world's digital frontier in coming decades," the McKinsey Global Institute said in a recent report titled "China's digital economy: A leading global force."

China is the world's largest e-commerce market, accounting for more than 40 percent of the value of worldwide transactions, up from less than one percent a decade ago. In terms of mobile payments, China has a transaction value 11 times that of the United States, according to the report.

"The digital economy is making greater contributions to the national economy and rising as a fresh driver of economic transformation and upgrades," said Lin Nianxiu, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner.

MOBILE EVERYTHING

While companies that invest heavily in the digital economy are reaping a fine e-harvest, ordinary people are sharing the bounty.

On platforms offered by the internet giants, you can do almost everything with just a click on your smartphone -- ordering groceries, transferring money, watching movies, booking holidays, and even managing your stock market portfolios.

Every day, life gets easier, faster and, very often, cheaper.

Ms. Sun from Beijing is a busy woman, but house-proud and concerned about stubborn kitchen stains and ice buildup in her freezer. Now she has an app on her phone that brings professional cleaners to her door to solve her problems in no time at all. "It saves me time and energy," she said.

The mobile internet is breeding new professions and new industries with tailored services only a few taps away. The digital lifestyle is the real new normal: mobile payments, mobile entertainment, mobile socializing and even "mobile officing."

About 531 million Chinese people now make online payments of some sort, 12 percent more than the previous year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Over 300 million people are ordering meals online, creating a market of online food ordering worth 204.6 billion yuan in 2017, 23 percent more than 2016, according to the institute of Meituan-Dianping, an online platform for ordering food and booking movies and restaurants in January.

In 2016, over 157 trillion yuan changed hands via mobile payments, almost 50 percent more than in 2015, the People's Bank of China said.

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