China's premier Li Keqiang has introduced a new “Internet Plus” policy for China that will see the nation focus on domestic technology adoption in order to boost domestic growth while also giving Chinese technology firms a chance do do better overseas.
Li Keqiang heads China's State Council, a body whose membership includes the heads of all government departments and is analagous to a western democracy's Cabinet. The State Council's power is, however, outweighed by that of the Presidency, as illustrated by the fact that China's head of state Xi Jinping is both general secretary of the Communist Party and commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces.
Which is not to say that Li's a figurehead: one of his roles is to preside over the National People’s Congress (NPC), China's 2,987-member legislature. While high Party officials hold most policy-creation power, and the NPC is sometimes considered a showpiece, one of premier Li's roles is to deliver “Reports On The Work Of The Government” that update the body on policy.
Li delivered one last week, and it included this sentence:
“We will develop the "Internet Plus" action plan to integrate mobile Internet, cloud computing big data, and the Internet of Things with modern manufacturing, to encourage the healthy development of e-commerce, industrial networks, and Internet banking, and to get Internet-based companies to increase their presence in the international market.”
It's widely held that the sentence above is in accordance with the sentiments of Pony Ma, chairman of Tencent, China's largest web portal.
China makes lots of grand statements and set pieces like these Reports are seldom less than boldly optimistic. But China-watchers say the sentence above is very significant because it signals the government is keen to modernise China's industries using technology.
The report offers similar sentiments on other pages. There's also a commitment to “... press ahead with nationwide project to deliver telecoms, radio, television, and Internet service over a single broadband connection and accelerate the development of fiber-optic networks, significantly increase broadband speeds, develop logistics and express delivery services, and ensure that new forms of Internet-based spending, which combine online-offline activities, come to thrive.”
There's also a promise to “redouble our efforts to upgrade Chìna from a manufacturer of quantity to one of quality” and commitments for subsidies to “accelerate equipment depreciation to push forward technological upgrading of traditional industries.”
We will promote the extensive application of information technologies in industrialisation, develop and utilize networking, digitalization and smart technologies, and work to develop certain key areas first and make breakthroughs in these areas.” The Report also contains pledges to invest in integrated circuit design.
If that sounds like empty nationalism, consider that the Report also says that in 2014 China's “number of broadband Internet users exceeded 780 million.” That's an extraordinary number of people on which to build a domestic internet industry, and for that industry to develop products relevant to the rest of the world.
As we've previously written, it's already possible to build a pretty decent data centre out of Chinese kit and apps. This new Report suggests that China has aspirations to become a far more significant player in the technology world. ®