A Zed and 3Vs – Zhangjiang's tech-tomorrowland

Ni Tao
Zhangjiang is where the utterly amazing is happening on China's tech scene.
Ni Tao

Zhangjiang is where the utterly amazing is happening on China’s tech scene.

In the last six months, I found myself repeatedly drawn to this sprawling high-tech hub in Pudong New Area, visiting labs, incubators and startups involved in big data, artificial intelligence, fintech, biotech, blockchain and some stuff that does not even have a name yet.

As I talked to the founders and bosses of these companies, I was invariably impressed by their 3Vs: valor, vigor and vision.

These 3Vs were most clearly manifest in the products and achievements on display at an exhibition hall in Zhangjiang that President Xi Jinping visited on Tuesday.

The highlight of the visit came when a wearable, exoskeleton robot – essentially a robotic suit – was made to simulate the gait of a stroke-stricken patient in AI-powered therapy for lower limb rehabilitation.

This model, Fourier X1 produced by Shanghai Fourier Intelligence, has all the chips, modules, sensors and algorithms necessary to analyze a patient’s condition just as any human therapist would do.

The robot applies just enough force thereafter to guide the patient through a series of movements to speed up recovery from strokes, fractures or other serious handicaps.

I happened to have interviewed Alex Gu, the 30-something entrepreneur who founded Fourier, four months ago. The role he envisages for his inventions is to help address the “pain point” of a shortage of rehab specialists in China and elsewhere.

“Social value is our overriding concern,” he told me. “Commercial value comes second.”

Other items on display include a cold atom clock that has been into orbit aboard Chang’e II, and a dark matter particle explorer.

In 16 years, Zhangjiang has evolved from mosquito-infested rice paddies into a scientific Tomorrowland that gives young entrepreneurs like Gu the chance to call their vision into reality.

The 37-square-kilometer Zhangjiang High-tech Park is set to expand to 94 square kilometers and become a full-blown “science city.”

Speaking to a select group of young scientists and tech entrepreneurs during his visit, Xi said the great revitalization of the Chinese nation waits for no man and it is imperative that we ramp up technological innovation.

“What you are doing now is critical and significant at this stage,” said Xi. “And it is immensely instrumental to achieving our two centenary goals and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

He was referring to the twin goals of building China into a well-off society by 2021, the centenary of the Communist Party of China, and then into a “prosperous, democratic, civilized, harmonious” socialist nation by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

With the world economy still reeling from the financial crisis, and the economic rebound yet to gain full strength, there is an urgency for countries to push together for innovation and create new engines of growth, Xi said at the opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo.

He added that countries should seize the opportunity brought by the new technological revolution and industrial change to cooperate on the digital economy, AI and nanotechnology, and to build a horde of new technologies, industries, business formats and models.

Realizing this goal entails synergies between countries, industries, companies and individuals, to be sure.

To see the Chinese Dream coming to life, one needs to look no further than Zhangjiang where the valor, vigor and vision of young entrepreneurs like Gu is manifest in a mix of a cooperative spirit and breathtaking creations.

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