Shanghai on route to become a global digital hub by 2035

Zhu Shenshen
More than just an official slogan, the city has concrete, actionable plans to expand and develop infrastructure to become a first-tier globally influential digital hub.
Zhu Shenshen

Shanghai is building itself into a "globally influential digital hub" by 2035, with major information technology upgrades for a range of industries.

It's more than just a red-tape slogan.

The city has a blueprint with the 2035 plan and a near-term plan as the Shanghai's five-year digitalization plan by 2025 was released last month. Shanghai has established an ecosystem to boost innovation and digitalization, such as booming artificial intelligence and telecommunications network infrastructures, data usage and transaction policies, and a professional exchange and improved business environment and capital market for tech firms and talent.

"The digital city upgrade is a national strategy to strengthen China's abilities in manufacturing and broadband. It also offers tools for us to better serve people and their daily lives," said Wu Jincheng, director of the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information, the city's top industry regulator.

Local government officials, including Wu and higher-ranking officials, have drafted the digital infrastructure blueprints, covering the 14th Five Year Plan for 2025 and Shanghai's longer-term plan for the city's economic development for 2035.

The digital targets include building faster 5G and broadband networks, construction of intelligent factories and digitized hospitals, developing AI and data-driven services, and boosting applications for aged and disabled groups.

It will make Shanghai a "globally-leading digital city," covering digital infrastructure, economic development, livelihood improvement and urban management.

In detail, it includes digital transformation covering at least 80 percent of large local manufacturers; over 100 benchmark digital tools to improve people's lives; over 80 percent e-governance applications available online, and construction of 100 million Internet of Things sensors and devices, according to the latest government blueprint.

AI and 5G are two key digital infrastructure pieces and dual growth engines for Shanghai's digital plan which help the city deal and transfer data in smart and efficient ways.

Shanghai on route to become a global digital hub by 2035

By 2025, the scale of Shanghai's artificial intelligence industry output will hit 400 billion yuan (US$62.5 billion), with 12 percent annual growth on average, more than double the city's GDP growth rate, according to Shanghai's AI development blueprint for 2025 released recently.

Shanghai will become a hotspot for AI innovation and development with international influence, covering original achievements and cutting-edge theories, a batch of national and municipal innovation platforms, and a localized regulation system known as "Shanghai Format."

Shanghai has national artificial intelligence application innovation fields, such as intelligently-connected vehicles, medical imaging assisted diagnosis, visual image identification, and smart sensors. AI has been widely used in industrial manufacturing, medical and anti-pandemic measures, transportation, education, culture, finance and commerce, business services, and other fields.

Broadly, the city will have 10 AI-powered sub-divided fields with an annual output of over 10 billion yuan each, 500 digitized firms with leading AI applications, over 1,000 new AI invention patents, and over 300,000 AI-specialized employees in Shanghai by 2025.

For Xu Li, SenseTime's chief executive, Shanghai is a city "of the highest importance for growth and career development," said the graduate of Shanghai's Jiao Tong University during the ringing ceremony of the company's Hong Kong listing.

SenseTime, whose share price has almost doubled since its HK market debut last week, is one of the biggest listed AI firms in Asia. It has chosen Shanghai as the location of the headquarters of SenseTime China. In 2022, SenseTime will build a AI computing center in Shanghai's Lingang Special Area, and it will be one of the few with the most powerful AI calculation capabilities in Asia.

In Shanghai, there are more than 3,000 firms with "data" in their names; one-third of which have been founded since 2020. This indicates the great potential of the whole data-driven and AI ecosystem, said Fudan University, citing industry sources.

Besides AI, Shanghai has leading positions on 5G and broadband networks nationwide and globally.

The 5G network makes resources and data flow better and more efficiently and boosts the digital economic development of the city.

Shanghai has been recognized as one of China's One-Gbps cities, offering some of the fastest Internet in the country. The city is one of 29 cities in China's first batch of One-Gbps cities, meaning both 5G and broadband bandwidth surpass 1 gigabyte per second, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

By November, Shanghai had built 52,000 outdoor 5G base stations to cover the city. As of September, Shanghai's latest 1 Gbps broadband network covered 9.6 million families, with download speeds ranking No. 1 nationwide, local officials said.

China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom all chose Shanghai to debut their 5G products and services nationwide.

The carriers, encouraged by government regulators, have upgraded networks to boost speed and ensure telecommunication service prices remain the same or decrease.

Shanghai consumers will be able enjoy faster and more affordable 5G and family broadband services with a free upgrade to one Gbps bandwidth. China Mobile is offering free upgrades in broadband bandwidth in Shanghai of up to one gigabyte per second (Gbps), said the world's biggest mobile carrier, with about 1 billion users.

China Telecom also introduced an upgraded 2 Gbps family broadband service in Shanghai recently, giving the city the fastest broadband network in the nation.

The city has developed 600 applications powered by 5G, including applications covering information consumption, vertical industries, citizens' livelihood, digital governance, and other areas.

China Mobile recently displayed its latest digital and 5G applications in Shanghai, covering eight areas, such as smart transportation, virtual reality, and intelligent agriculture.

Mobile networks are a key part of information infrastructure to help Shanghai boost innovation, push economic transformation, and build the city into a global digital hub.

Shanghai-based chip designer Unisoc started large-scale production of its latest mobile platform and chip with partners and clients including China Telecom, ZTE, Hisense, and TSMC. It offers strong functionality and more affordable pricing of 5G chips. Smartphones will be more affordable with the company's strategy of "Everyone's 5G," said Chu Qing, Unisoc's chief executive.

Unisoc is applying to be listed in the Shanghai STAR Market while China Mobile is going to be listed on the Shanghai main board on Wednesday (January 5), the biggest IPO of the decade so far.

China Mobile, which raised about 56 billion yuan in its Shanghai IPO, will use the proceeds on network construction, data centers, cloud networks, and Internet of Things technologies.

Shanghai's strong capital and finance market fuels innovation and digital development, helping the city to achieve the global digital hub goal.

In 2021, Shanghai firms raised 150.7 billion yuan through IPOs via the STAR Market, 30 percent of the national level and ranking No. 1 in China. On the STAR Market, total market value of Shanghai firms reached 1.47 trillion yuan by year's end, ranking No. 1 nationwide, according to government figures.

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