A visitor tries a virtual driving system at the Global Digital Trade Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. DONG XUMING/FOR CHINA DAILY
Digital economy and digital trade are breaking down physical barriers and becoming an important force driving global economic and trade recovery, said top officials from China and around the world on Sunday.
“Empowered by digital technologies, the booming growth of digital trade is rapidly turning into a new engine for global trade,” said Ding Zhongli, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, in a video speech at the opening ceremony of the first Global Digital Trade Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
“It is reshaping global economic and trade patterns,” Ding said.
The development of digital trade and digital economy will be key to China’s modernization drive, said Yi Lianhong, Party secretary of Zhejiang province.
Home to China’s leading e-commerce and internet companies such as Alibaba, Zhejiang is one of the most vibrant places for digital trade and digital economy.
Data from the provincial statistics bureau show that in 2021, the total value of digital trade in Zhejiang reached 481 billion yuan ($68.93 billion), while the added value of its digital economy last year was worth 3.6 trillion yuan, the fourth highest in China.
“Vigorously developing digital economy and digital trade will help us respond to the profound changes unseen in a century, create a new development pattern in services, and bring in a new phase of institutional opening-up,” Yi said.
China’s fast-developing digital trade saw total imports and exports of its digital services stand at $359.69 billion in 2021, up 22.3 percent year-on-year, said a report jointly released by the Development Research Center of the State Council and the China Academy of Information Communications Technology in September.
Global cross-border trade in digital services reached $3.8 trillion in 2021, up 14.3 percent year-on-year, accounting for 63.6 percent of total trade in services.
“In our rapidly changing world, online commercial transactions have become a ubiquitous part of our lives and nowhere is this fact more apparent than in China,” said Leo Varadkar, the Irish minister for enterprise, trade and employment, in a message read out at the event.
“Preparing for tomorrow’s economy and society means seizing the opportunities presented by digital technologies,” Varadkar said. “Digital technologies will be particularly important for our decarbonization transition and supporting the achievement of our climate targets, as well as for businesses, as they move to working remotely or trading online for the first time.”
Ireland, where the European headquarters of many of the world’s leading information, communications and technologies corporations are based, is the Country of Honor for the inaugural Global Digital Trade Expo.
While the myriad advances brought by digital transformation to the world were applauded, challenges faced by the international community in the process, including the digital gap between rich and poor countries as well as a lack of coordinated international rules on digital trade, were highlighted.
Addressing these issues and bringing inclusive benefits “require joint efforts of all stakeholders including national governments, the private sector, international organizations and development agencies”, said Zhang Xiangchen, deputy director-general of the WTO, in a video message.
“China can make significant contributions in this regard,” Zhang said.
The report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, delivered on Oct 16 in Beijing, has pointed out in particular that the nation “will upgrade trade in goods, develop new mechanisms for trade in services and promote digital trade, in order to accelerate China’s transformation into a trader of quality.”