Driving Chinese Modernization Through Informatization
Chinese modernization is a major achievement secured by the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is the result of decades of experiments and endeavors and countless hardships and sacrifices. At present, China is pursuing a national rejuvenation strategy amid once-in-a-century global changes and the latest wave of information revolution, marking a historic convergence of events. Thanks to informatization, the context, roadmap, drivers, and goals of Chinese modernization have been enriched. This has created unprecedented opportunities for our efforts to build China into a modern socialist country and advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts. To firmly seize the historic opportunities arising from the information revolution, we must fully grasp the defining features, essential requirements, and major principles of Chinese modernization and make steadfast efforts to drive Chinese modernization through information-based development.
I. Shouldering the historic mission of promoting Chinese modernization through informatization
Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, President Xi Jinping has drawn several major conclusions based on the evolving trend of informatization in both the domestic and international contexts. These conclusions include that modernization cannot be achieved without informatization and that informatization should drive modernization forward. He has also discussed in considerable depth a series of major theoretical and practical issues relating to informatization and Chinese modernization and elaborated on the important position and role that informatization plays in China’s overall socialist modernization drive.
Visitors explore the Light of Internet Expo, part of the 2021 World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit. The event was held in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, September 25 to 28, 2021. PEOPLE’S DAILY / PHOTO BY ZHAI HUIYONG
First, President Xi has elucidated the intrinsic relationship between the latest wave of information revolution and the historical process of national rejuvenation. He has highlighted that major countries around the world view informatization as a key national strategic and development priority. With informatization redrawing the lines of global power, the Internet has become a key influential force in our world. For China, informatization provides an excellent chance to gain an edge in a new round of development by building new strengths for international competition, thus creating unprecedented opportunities for the Chinese nation.
Second, President Xi has explained the inherent relationship between informatization and Chinese modernization. He has noted that developed Western countries underwent a sequential development process, with industrialization, urbanization, agricultural modernization, and informatization unfolding one after another, to reach the current level of development after more than 200 years. As a latecomer seeking to make up for these “lost 200 years,” China must inevitably follow a process of parallel development, with industrialization, informatization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization all unfolding in tandem. Therefore, synchronizing these four processes constitutes a major strategic task for China’s modernization as a whole, and informatization can serve to catalyze and accelerate this synchronized development. Thus, basically achieving new industrialization, informatization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization has been set as one of China’s overall objectives for 2035.
Attendees explore the 2022 China Internet Civilization Conference, held at the National Convention and Exhibition Center in Tianjin, August 28 to 29, 2022. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI RAN
Third, President Xi has elaborated on the inherent relationship between our efforts to promote cyberspace development and build a modern socialist country. He has underscored that, from the perspective of achieving the Two Centenary Goals and realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, we must expedite the process of building China into a major cyber country. Adapting to the new historical phase in China’s development, we must fully apply the new philosophy of development, leverage the process of informatization to cultivate new growth drivers, and see that these new drivers deliver fresh development and lead to new achievements.
President Xi’s important conclusions provide in-depth answers to a series of major theoretical and practical questions, such as why we should pursue informatization and how to do so. They shed light on the task of driving Chinese modernization through information-based development in terms of the timing, goals, and requirements, as well as the inherent logic, overall layout, and path involved in such a task. They offer a profound insight into the trend of information-based development and reflect a thorough understanding of the laws governing the development of productive forces and production relations.
II. Recognizing that Chinese modernization is the result of the Chinese people’s long-term experiments and endeavors under the CPC’s leadership and firmly grasping the initiative for advancing modernization by promoting informatization
Modernization has been an aspiration shared by generations of Chinese people. Since its 18th National Congress, the CPC has continued building on existing foundations to create better institutional conditions, stronger material underpinnings, and more powerful inspiration for advancing Chinese modernization. These efforts have been particularly evident in the area of cyberspace.
The CPC Central Committee has set the strategic goal of building a strong cyber country and developed overall plans to advance cybersecurity and IT application. China has built the world’s largest information infrastructure system, equipped with advanced technology and sophisticated functions. We have also made historic breakthroughs in technological innovation and rapidly developed an industry system for core IT technology. The scale of China’s digital economy has grown from 11 trillion yuan in 2012 to 45.5 trillion yuan in 2021, ranking second in the world. By June 2022, the number of Internet users in China reached 1.051 billion, and the Internet penetration rate hit 74.4%.
With strong headway made in developing e-government and e-society, the driving role of information technology has been given full play in the modernization process. In the field of cyberspace, we have secured groundbreaking achievements and effected profound and fundamental changes. This progress provides a vivid illustration of the new developments and achievements made in promoting Chinese modernization.
III. The important principles underpinning Chinese modernization and the correct direction for promoting Chinese modernization through informatization
Recognizing that failure in the cyberspace domain would lead to failure in our Party’s long-term governance, the Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has, since the 18th CPC National Congress, improved the leadership system and mechanism for cyberspace management. The Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs (later renamed the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission) was established, and the important political principle of the Party supervising cyberspace was put in place. These steps have comprehensively strengthened the Central Committee’s centralized, unified leadership over cyberspace governance and fundamentally resolved the problem of fragmented management in this domain. It is vital that we firmly uphold the Central Committee’s leadership over cyberspace governance. Only by doing so can we maintain the correct course, generate strong momentum, and bring together a powerful force for building a strong cyber country.
We must grasp the major principles of Chinese modernization and see that they are implemented in all aspects of cybersecurity and IT application work to ensure progress along the right track. We must firmly uphold the CPC’s leadership over cyberspace work, making sure it is exercised in all areas and at all important links. As we strive to guide the information revolution and build a strong cyber country, we must guarantee that the CPC exercises overall leadership and coordinates the efforts of all sides, and boost the Party’s ability to conduct governance and leadership in the information age. We should pursue a uniquely Chinese path of cyberspace development with steadfast commitment and continue to expand our distinctive approach to cyberspace governance.
Applying a people-centered development philosophy, we must consider the people as the deepest, most enduring, and most dependable source of strength for driving our cause forward. We should continue to deepen reform and opening up, promoting comprehensive reform and innovation of concepts, content, methods, and institutions in the cyberspace domain and firmly advancing high-standard opening up. We should maintain a strong fighting spirit and develop a stronger sense of responsibility, awareness of risks, and consciousness of potential dangers. We must be ready to take on tough issues and face problems squarely and adopt effective steps to prevent and resolve major risks and challenges.
IV. The profound dimensions of Chinese modernization and the responsibilities involved in driving modernization through informatization
The report to the 20th CPC National Congress held in October 2022 summarizes Chinese modernization as one of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development. These five characteristics, which reveal the profound dimensions of Chinese modernization, constitute both theoretical concepts and practical requirements.
Currently, a new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation, represented by information technology, is advancing at a fast pace. This has accelerated the flow and sharing of production factors, such as labor, capital, energy, and information, and created important opportunities for China to transform its growth model, improve the wellbeing of its people, enrich their intellectual and cultural lives, effect a transition to green development, and promote exchanges and cooperation. This revolution and transformation have also provided strong driving forces for development, effective sharing mechanisms, a rich supply of material and cultural products, a reliable and high-quality development path, and a favorable external development environment for advancing Chinese modernization.
It is important to understand the dimensions of Chinese modernization and identify our responsibilities in cyberspace work. This will allow us to provide better services and ensure strong support and guarantees for promoting Chinese modernization through the development of a strong cyber country.
Visitors test out smart healthcare devices at the Fifth Digital China Summit & Exhibition. The event was held in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, July 22 to 26, 2022. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER ZHOU YI
To advance the modernization of a huge population, we must not only seize the advantage provided by having the world’s largest number of Internet users, but also fully consider the complexity and difficulty of ensuring governance and management for such a vast population of netizens. By doing so, we will ensure the steady development of our cyberspace endeavors over the long term.
To promote the modernization of common prosperity for all, we must take advantage of the ubiquity, convenience, and sharing capabilities of the Internet to make faster progress in ensuring IT is used for the benefit of the people and see that everyone shares in the fruits of cyberspace development.
To facilitate the modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement, we must ensure a leading role for informatization in building up the strength, quality, and size of the digital economy. We must also strengthen online content development, work faster to cultivate a healthy cyberculture, and develop cyberspace as both a new engine for growth and a new cultural space for our people.
To promote the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature, we need to encourage digital and green modes of production and living, and advance coordinated digitalization and green development at a faster pace.
To advance the modernization of peaceful development, we should deepen international exchanges and cooperation in cyberspace, promote the development of a more just and equitable global Internet governance system, and build a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative, and orderly cyberspace. These efforts will help promote the building of a cyberspace community of shared future and ultimately the building of a global community of shared future.
V. The major relationships involved in Chinese modernization and the methods for promoting Chinese modernization through informatization
President Xi has stressed that Chinese modernization is a systemic project, requiring a coordinated approach, systematic planning, and progress across all fronts. To achieve this, we must correctly manage a series of major relationships, including those between top-level design and practical exploration, strategy and tactics, the need to uphold fundamental principles and to break new ground, efficiency and fairness, vitality and order, and self-reliance and opening up.
To effectively manage the relationship between top-level design and practical actions, we must resolutely implement the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and keep in mind the nation’s most fundamental interests. Based on practical cyber affairs, we should strengthen research and planning for major theories, strategies, and policies for cyberspace development and promptly transform effective practices and successful experiences emerging from the community level and from among the people into policies and mechanisms. This will ensure that outstanding achievements in the cyberspace domain add new luster to the cause of the Party and the country as a whole.
To handle the relationship between strategy and tactics, we must, on the one hand, carry out the strategy for building a strong cyber country, extend the vision, reach, and consistency of effort with which this strategy is pursued, and work hard over the long term to ensure its implementation. On the other hand, we must also be flexible and adaptable, work according to local conditions, and refine the specific tasks, important measures, and major projects for building a strong cyber country according to evolving circumstances and trends.
To handle the relationship between upholding fundamental principles and breaking new ground, we must unswervingly uphold the principle of the Party supervising cyberspace and follow a path of cyberspace governance with Chinese characteristics. We also need to comprehensively deepen reforms in the cyberspace domain, move faster to make breakthroughs in core information technologies, and further innovate our work concepts, content, platforms, forms, and methods.
In dealing with the relationship between efficiency and fairness, we must develop the digital economy and make core technology breakthroughs with greater efficiency than a capitalist approach could achieve. We must also effectively safeguard social fairness and justice, so that the hundreds of millions of Chinese netizens can realize a stronger sense of fulfillment by sharing in the fruits of cyberspace development.
To manage the relationship between vitality and order, we must unleash the potential for innovation throughout society and stimulate the vitality of all cyberspace entities, including netizens and Internet and IT companies. At the same time, we must ensure both development and security, maintain order in cyberspace, and work to foster a clean and positive cyber ecosystem.
To balance the relationship between self-reliance and opening up, we must enhance our self-reliance and strength in science and technology at a faster pace and overcome technology bottlenecks to truly take the initiative in development. We should also engage in broader and deeper international cooperation and exchanges in the cyberspace domain, participate fully in international cyberspace governance, and steadily enhance our country’s voice and influence in international cyberspace affairs.
VI. The strategic arrangements for Chinese modernization and the main tasks in building a strong cyber country in the new era
At its 20th National Congress, the CPC presented an overarching roadmap for the two-step strategy to build a great modern socialist country, and strategic tasks and major initiatives for the next five years in particular. To strengthen digital infrastructure development, we will coordinate the construction of network, computing, and application infrastructure and vigorously promote systemic and large-scale deployment. This will facilitate unimpeded flows of information for economic and social development. To accelerate the pace of breakthroughs in core technologies in the information field, we will fully leverage the strengths of China’s socialist system, the new system for mobilizing resources nationwide, and our enormous market. We will thus pool resources to make breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields and firmly maintain technological self-reliance as well as the initiative in development.
We will build up the strength, quality, and size of China’s digital economy. We will fully harness the digital economy as a key node in China’s domestic economy and a strategic link in facilitating interplay between domestic and international economic flows. We will integrate digital technology into the real economy at a faster pace, stimulate the vitality of the digital economy, and build internationally competitive digital industry clusters. We will promote efficient and well-coordinated e-government services, facilitating connectivity between information systems and networks, the sharing of data as necessary, efficient collaboration, and online and offline integration.
To accelerate the development of an e-society, we will coordinate the development of new smart cities and digital villages. We will build ubiquitous, intelligent, convenient, fair, and inclusive digital service systems and keep working to enhance the digital skills and literacy of the entire population. We will promote the flourishing of digital culture, improve online content development, steadily expand the reach of mainstream thoughts and ideas, create new digital cultural products and services, and develop new models for digital cultural services.
To see that digital technology facilitates ecological conservation, we will advance digitalization and green development in a coordinated manner. We will make digital infrastructure more eco-friendly through upgrades, work to establish a green, low-carbon, and circular industrial system, and improve our capacity for digital environmental governance.
We will build a strong cybersecurity shield. We will comprehensively strengthen the system and capacity for ensuring cybersecurity, fully enforce laws and regulations regarding cybersecurity, data security, and the protection of key information infrastructure, and effectively safeguard people’s legitimate rights and interests.
We will deepen international exchanges and cooperation in the area of cyberspace. With a focus on high-standard opening up, we will actively develop platforms for bilateral, regional, and international cooperation and give full play to the role of the World Internet Conference and other platforms. We will strengthen practical cooperation with emerging market countries, Belt and Road Initiative countries, and other developing countries and pursue high-quality development of the Digital Silk Road. These efforts will help build an open and mutually beneficial framework for international cooperation in the digital sphere.
Zhuang Rongwen is Deputy Director of the Publicity Department and Director of the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, under CPC Central Committee. He is also Minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 5, 2023)