With notable progress made in China’s pursuit of computing power, or the ability to process data, a solid foundation has been laid for its transition to a digital economy.
The country’s total computing power scale now ranks second in the world, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). By the end of June, the number of data center racks in use topped 5.9 million, and that of servers reached nearly 20 million in China.
Also, China had some 1.85 million 5G base stations and more than 450 million 5G end users by the end of June. Zhang Yunming, vice minister of the MIIT, said the faster digital transformation of the society and the economy created a strong demand for computing power, thus providing a rare historic opportunity for developing the computing power sector.
In 2021, the industry’s market scale exceeded 1.5 trillion yuan (about 222.5 billion U.S. dollars), while the number of super-large and large data centers in use exceeded 450 across the nation, and that of intelligent computing centers surpassed 20, according to the MIIT.
The rapid growth in computing infrastructure came amid China’s push to develop its digital economy, which increased from 11 trillion yuan in 2012 to over 45 trillion yuan in 2021. Zhang regarded computing power as a new type of productivity, a vital foundation for the development of the digital economy, and a new engine to unleash the potential of data as a factor of production. It also drives the digital transformation of the economy and society and promotes building a digital government.
He said all industries should follow digitalization trends. He urged accelerating the construction of computing infrastructure, pushing innovation in the computing power industry, and boosting coordinated and open cooperation between sectors.
At the national level, a mega project was launched in February involving the establishment of eight national computing hubs in the country and ten national data center clusters to improve overall computing power. It is a significant underpinning for developing China’s digital economy.
By creating a national computing power network, the project will support the less developed regions with abundant renewable energy resources to store and process data transmitted from the economically advanced areas to address the soaring demand and the regional capacity imbalance.
Currently, computing power has been widely applied in fields such as the industrial internet, smart medical care, fintech, distance education, and aerospace.
Faced with impacts from multiple factors, including the epidemic, this year, many manufacturing enterprises in China have turned to the industrial internet and relevant applications to boost supply chain stability.
A report by e-commerce consulting firm Ebrun and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed that over 70 percent of the companies surveyed have started to make procurement via digital means.
Last year, China’s cloud computing market exceeded 300 billion yuan, according to a calculation from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
Looking ahead, Zhang said more efforts will be made to build a new information infrastructure system based on a new generation of communication networks, with data and computing power facilities as the core and a breakthrough focus on convergence infrastructure.
He also stressed the need to strengthen innovation in the computing power sector by promoting the setting of computing power standards such as those related to new data centers and industrial big data centers.
On the other hand, he said, the focus will be on addressing the demand for digital economic development and deepening the integration between computing power and sectors such as government affairs, industrial production, and medical care.