Construction of digital Silk Road lights up BRI cooperation

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Digital Silk Road is rising as a new global solution that drives the common development of mankind in the digital era. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) is about to be kicked off in Beijing, and a side event of the BRF—a sub-forum on the digital Silk Road scheduled on Apr. 24, is attracting huge attention.

 

At the opening ceremony of the first BRF held two years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “We should pursue innovation-driven development and intensify cooperation in frontier areas such as digital economy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and quantum computing, and advance the development of big data, cloud computing and smart cities so as to turn them into a digital Silk Road of the 21st century.” The promotion of the cooperation on building a digital Silk Road has been a focal point for the International Cooperation Center under China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) over the past two years. So far, China has concluded memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with 16 countries on the construction of the digital Silk Road, and 12 of them are now making action plans.

 

As the fruit of digital economy integration and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the digital Silk Road aims to support the BRI through digital technologies. China has grown into the world’s second-largest digital economy, leading the globe in the number of Internet users, online retail sales volume, and mobile Internet development. It has achieved a good number of innovations in technology and development mode.

 

The digital Silk Road facilitates the flow of information and data in the cyber world, which can minimize cultural differences, reduce asymmetric information, build trust for Belt and Road countries and regions, and promote all-round cooperation in multiple fields such as information infrastructure, trade, finance, industries, science, education, culture, and health. By reducing the digital gap, it will accelerate economic and social development. The digital Silk Road aims to share the benefits based on the principle of equality by openness and trust. Originated from the development of the Internet, digital technologies were created to facilitate connectivity through decentralization. Equality, openness, trust, and sharing are the genes inside digital economy, echoing with the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit that embodied by the ancient silk routes for thousands of years.

 

The construction of the digital Silk Road will help drive economic growth, improve the economic quality, promote employment, and enhance people’s welfare. It not only promotes the development of the digital service sector, such as cross-border e-commerce, smart cities, telemedicine, and internet finance, but also accelerates technological progress including computing, big data, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing. It will strengthen international cooperation in telecommunication, electricity, transportation infrastructure, as well as production capacity.

 

The digital Silk Road is also expected to boost economic growth and further industrial upgrading and restructuring, granting more flexibility to employment and startups and increasing people’s happiness by creating more convenient, comfortable and free lifestyles. To jointly build the digital Silk Road, governments and international organizations should play their due roles in making top-level designs, establishing transnational cooperation mechanisms, and setting up industrial cooperation alliances.

 

In addition, they should also build public service platforms, create dispute settlement mechanisms, enhance early warning of risks and cyber security, unify technical standards, promote international cooperation on standardization, improve laws and regulations, and build a governance system. Meanwhile, enterprises should also play their parts in building information infrastructure, developing internet information technology industry, and promoting the digital transformation of industries and public services. Besides, think tanks, intermediary organs, as well as associations and alliances,  must make use of their respective advantages in research, information channels and coordination, so as to enhance talent training system, strengthen training for digital talent, and build databases for cooperation projects. President Xi proposed to promote the change of the global Internet governance system and jointly build a community of common destiny in cyberspace in his keynote speech delivered at the second World Internet Conference (WIC) in 2015. Two years later, the fourth WIC witnessed the launch  of “The Belt and Road” Digital Economy International Cooperation Initiative by countries including China, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, as more countries pulled efforts to build a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative, and orderly cyberspace. It is believed that promoting the construction of the digital Silk Road will definitely lead to high-quality development of the BRI.

 

By Huang Yong, director general of the International Cooperation Center of the National Development and Reform Commission of China

(People’s Daily)

 

 

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