Like we all know that By in 2025, China’s technology ecosystem will have matured and be on par with Silicon Valley in terms of dynamism, innovation, and competitiveness.
That dynamism will increasingly take the form of industrial applications of information technology, as the locus of Chinese innovation shifts from the consumer internet to the industrial internet.
China will largely succeed in deploying highly capable “new infrastructure”—cloud computing, 5G networks, smart cities, and surveillance networks, among others—to facilitate this transition to the industrial internet.
US export controls on semiconductors will act as a modest brake on China’s new infrastructure rollout. But expanding restrictions on semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME) will mean that China remains vulnerable to future interruptions to its supply chain for advanced chips.
Key assumptions:
Development of new infrastructure will be heavily prioritized in the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP), in an attempt to generate new sources of growth from applying emerging technology to traditional industries.
The US government will largely maintain export controls on Huawei, but pressure from the US semiconductor industry and allies will prevent a major expansion of those controls that would block chip exports to tech giants such as Alibaba or Tencent.
There will not be major exogenous shocks to the technology landscape (e.g. game-changing breakthroughs in quantum computing or synthetic biology) that would fundamentally alter the global balance of technological capabilities.
1. New Infrastructure Paves the Way
The term “new infrastructure” first surfaced in Chinese government language in 2018, but it picked up major steam in policy circles during the first half of 2020. Over the next five years, the push to build this digital infrastructure and use it to upgrade traditional industries will be central to China’s technological development.
The National Development and Reform Commission has outlined three categories of new infrastructure: “information infrastructure” (data centers, cloud computing, 5G networks), “integrated infrastructure” (smart cities, smart energy), and “innovation infrastructure” (STEM education, supercomputers) (see Figure 1).
In this triumvirate, “information infrastructure” is the physical foundation that can accommodate the industrial-scale flow and processing of data. The second pillar of “integrated infrastructure” consists of the productive applications, often large-scale, that are built atop that foundation. Finally, “innovation infrastructure” refers to the tools for cultivating and empowering human capital (Chinese researchers, engineers, and students) who can push the frontiers of indigenous technology.$uATj