by Vivian Yang
China's effort in developing digital economy has played an important role 'not only in containing the virus but also further developing the economy before and after the pandemic,' noted Dr. Jianguang Shen, chief economist of JD Technology at a webinar hosted by OECD's Emerging Markets Network (EMnet).
Dr. Shen was invited as a special guest to address the audience of the EMnet on May 6 under the topic of 'economic outlook for Emerging Asia', based on the key findings of OECD Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India 2021: Reallocating Resources for Digitalisation.
Shen pointed out that with the wide use of the internet and digital technologies, many industries in China managed to maintain growth during the pandemic. For example, the financial industry has been largely unaffected by COVID-19 as people could still proceed payment, stocks, insurance and other financial services via fintech and mobile banks without physical contacts.
E-commerce logistics, spearheaded by JD Logistics' same / next-day delivery service, satisfied people's consumption demand in a timely manner, and telemedicine ensured people's access to high-quality medical services while staying at home,
At the height of the pandemic in China, AI technology was adopted to track the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable people from being affected. People in rural areas also benefited from having internet connection to buy and sell products during the difficult time, Shen noted.
'Data has been regarded one of the productive factors by the Chinese government,' Shen said, 'the government need to continue to strengthen data privacy protection and harness the strength of it to narrow the income gap and benefit more people.'
China's GDP expanded 18.3% in the first quarter from the low base last year when it became the first nation to go into lockdown to curb coronavirus cases. During the May Day Holidays, the country's domestic travels set new record. Dr. Shen attributed the application of digitalization as a key facilitator for the country's quick resumption of production and normal life.
According to his latest comments on China's politburo meeting on economic development on April 30, the focus of China's economic policies and regulations have been gradually shifting from promoting steady recovery and growth especially in manufacturing, people's livelihood related sectors and SMEs, to more risks prevention work in fiscal, financial and housing price fields as well as driving economic reforms towards tech-led and low-carbon directions.
Lorenzo Pavone, Deputy Head of OECD Development Centre said that Dr. Shen's sharing about 'the investment in digital infrastructure before the crisis and still ongoing, building on the success of the country's recovery could serve as a reference in the region'.
Kensuke Tanaka, Head of the Asia Desk of OECD Development Centre and Taimur Baig, Managing Director and Chief Economist, Group Research of DBS Bank also joined the webinar session and shared their views on the report findings and the digital future of the Asian region.