China’s ‘two sessions’: Tech titans’ proposals echo government goals for 5G, AI, autonomous driving and climate change
- New proposals from the heads of China’s biggest tech companies seek to address China’s ageing population and upgrading digital infrastructure
- The CEOs of many of China’s biggest companies serve as delegates at the country’s annual ‘two sessions’ event
Boosting digital infrastructure
China has been ramping up efforts to build out and improve what it calls “new infrastructure”. The broad term applies to a variety of technologies and related areas, including 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), high-speed rail and research institutions.
In his proposal for the national planning and development of information technology infrastructure, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing placed a particular emphasis on data centres, an area he is familiar with as head of one of the world’s largest server providers.
Another industry-focused proposal came from Lei Jun, founder and CEO of smartphone giant Xiaomi. Lei called for a better policy environment, more collaboration between industry and academia, and more talent in intelligent manufacturing.
Addressing rural brain drain
For the two sessions, multiple tech bosses offered policy proposals similar to what can be found in the No 1 document, which recognises the role of e-commerce in rural economic growth and the call for adopting smart technologies to modernise the agricultural sector.
Pony Ma Huateng, founder and CEO of social media and gaming giant Tencent, recommended better training for farmers to improve their knowledge of e-commerce and agricultural technology, among other proposals on internet industry regulation.
Zhang Jindong, CEO of electronics retailer Suning.com, suggested e-commerce platforms use their services to help smaller rural vendors with their digital transformation.
China had nearly 30 million rural migrant workers who were forced to stay in or return to their hometowns following the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Zhang suggested that more of these returning workers participate in rural e-commerce, as they might be more familiar with the internet.
Helping an ageing population
A proposal from Wang Xiaochuan, CEO of Beijing-based internet search company Sogou, also addressed the ageing population, calling for better planning of the digital economy.
Wang proposed adjusting internet applications so that they are easier for older people to use. He also recommended leveraging smart technologies to address related problems, such as a shortage of workers. AI and robotics should be used to liberate human workers in manufacturing, he said, and help in areas such as home care.
Xiaomi’s Lei and Robin Li Yanhong, founder and CEO of Chinese search and AI giant Baidu, both offered “smart retirement” proposals, suggesting smart technologies be used to ease the burden of senior care. Li focused on introducing more intelligent devices to health care, and Lei asked for standards and regulations that could help better implement a smart retirement system.
Fighting climate change
Since China recently reaffirmed its commitment to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, the country’s tech titans are also showing their support.
Proposals from Tencent’s Ma included suggestions for optimising data centres, power-hungry facilities that are an important resource for tech companies but a headache for environmental groups. Ma suggested speeding up research and development of low-carbon technologies and developing hi-tech, carbon-neutral data centres.
Tencent unveiled its own action plan in January to achieve net-zero emissions, becoming one of the first Chinese enterprises to issue such a plan along with the national State Grid Corporation. Ma suggested more tech companies follow suit with their own plans to reach carbon neutrality.
Upgrading artificial intelligence
AI has been a recurring theme in Li’s proposals in past years. Among his five proposals this year, one also covers sharing data between different online platforms.
Two sessions: How China's environmental policies are giving a boost to green industries
Advancing driving tech
Another proposal from Zhou included strengthening cybersecurity for smart cities.