China’s Two Meetings is a showpiece event every year. The annual political gathering sets economic targets and guides policy across the world’s second largest economy. This year, though, the backdrop is COVID-19.
Considering the economic shockwaves caused by the pandemic, which continue to rock markets globally, the anticipated US$1.4 trillion of investment in key technologies in China over six years catches the eye.
Sensors, cloud computing, AI, 5G, the whole tech toolbox – everything needed to build the Chinese cities of the future.
Seems a smart idea. Yes, there is an element of making a short-term political statement. But there is also a seemingly sensible long-term objective of achieving less reliance on a certain rival superpower if we assume that the ongoing "decoupling" continues beyond this November.
One key question is then whether the legal and regulatory frameworks are in place for more wide-spread adoption of these new technologies. While we saw, for example, revised data protection guidelines released in February which better deal with the emergence and growing importance of new tech (such as facial recognition software), cybersecurity, data privacy and other legal principles in China are for now insufficiently comprehensive to adequately regulate each of these new technologies – tech that should be just round the corner with all this investment? What data can flow freely when businesses are all linked by super-fast networks? How are ownership structures for autonomous vehicle going to work when we are all sharing vehicles connected by 5G? Do we need the authorities to supervise the ethics of AI equipment that influences many of our daily decisions?
Although Two (More) Meetings may not be enough to answer the raft of questions that could face tech, business and legal experts if this digital plan is executed as proposed, at the very least, there should be exciting opportunities for those ready, well-researched and well-advised on the key issues as they inevitably arise. Keep watching carefully!
“Nothing like this has happened before, this is China’s gambit to win the global tech race,” said Digital China Holdings chief operating officer Maria Kwok, as she sat in a Hong Kong office surrounded by facial recognition cameras and sensors. “Starting this year, we are really beginning to see the money flow through.”