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  • The Centre of Expertise on Trade,
    Investment and Public Policy

    Industry leaders explore China’s tech trajectory

    Published On: 30 September 2020

    From the explosion in e-commerce to advances in AI and automation, China’s digital economy is expected to grow rapidly as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates pre-existing trends. Asia House, in partnership with CKGSB, brought together leading figures in China’s digital space to discuss these trends and offer predictive analysis on country’s tech trajectory.

    Watch the event in full

    “The digital economy before the pandemic was one-third of China’s GDP,” Professor Sun Baohong, Dean’s Distinguished Chair Professor of Marketing, Associate Dean for CKGSB Americas and Director of the CIM Center at CKGSB, told the webinar. “But given the trends, I think this number is going to increase very fast.”

    Professor Sun predicted that many of the consumer behaviour shifts in China since the outbreak of COVID-19, including online shopping – which increased by 8.6 per cent during the pandemic – will be permanent. The movement of “tech savvy” younger people from first and second tier cities to third and fourth tier cities during the lockdown could also have an impact on China’s e-commerce landscape, the professor said.

    For John Artman, Technology Editor at the South China Morning Post, “it isn’t surprising at all” that digitisation is accelerating rapidly in China, given the tech sector’s experience in responding quickly to consumer demand.

    “These tech companies [in China] have done an amazing job of finding the pain points in everyday life and building up products and services to directly address those pain points,” Artman said.

    However, it’s not just consumer businesses where COVID-19 is driving major advances in China’s digital economy. More people moving online means more data, and that’s good news for AI companies, according to Anita Huang, Operating Partner & Chief Marketing Officer, Sinovation Ventures – a VC firm specialising in Chinese tech.

    “AI performs best and trains best with massive amounts of data,” Huang said. “So we see the pandemic and the accelerated digitisation actually providing further fuel to our next wave of AI applications.”

    But not all tech companies were prepared for the opportunities that came with COVID-19. Deborah Campbell, Chief Operating Officer at Accenture Greater China, has been tracking the digital transformation of companies in China, and predicted that there will be winners and losers in this new era.

    “COVID-19 exposed companies that have really not addressed all of the foundational parts of what they need to do,” said Campbell. “There are some big fundamental questions that many Chinese companies need to address, which is technology, organisation, the use of AI and agile innovation.”

    The discussion was chaired by Asia House Chief Executive Michael Lawrence and held in partnership with CKGSB, an Asia House Corporate Member. Find out more about Corporate Membership at Asia House.

    Gain more insights on China’s digital economy – watch the event in full