By Lilian Zhang
Central China’s Henan province, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, is investing 50 billion yuan (US$7.39 billion) on a digital infrastructure expansion programme that will help move its industries up the value chain, advancing beyond labour-intensive manufacturing activities.
Under the 2023 Digital Economy Development Work Plan recently released by the Henan Development and Reform Commission, that programme will focus on fostering the development of digital industries that include advanced computing, cybersecurity, satellite communications, integrated circuits, artificial intelligence, digital platforms and 5G.
The initiative comes about three months after the State Council, China’s cabinet, pledged to bolster the country’s digital economy through major new policy commitments.
Its move is in line with China’s 14th five-year plan, from 2021 to 2025, which sets out to accelerate the digital transformation of its supply chain, close the gaps in data between different industries and social groups, better use data resources and improve governance of the digital economy. That would see the output of core industries in China’s digital economy account for 10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2025, up from 7.8 per cent in 2020.
The release of Henan’s Digital Economy Development Work Plan also reflects how authorities are keen to quickly move past last year’s chaos that occurred at the iPhone production complex in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital.
Protests over Covid-19 measures and employee benefits in November descended into violent clashes between hundreds of workers and security forces at the factory run by Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group, which had earlier experienced an exodus of tens of thousands of workers from the coronavirus-hit complex.
Henan’s digital infrastructure expansion programme aims to increase the number of 5G base stations in the province to more than 180,000 and the number of server computer racks inside data centres to surpass 90,000. These developments are expected to help grow the total number Internet of Things users in Henan to 100 million, equivalent to the province’s current population.
It will also roll out more than 1,000 smart charging stations and more than 8,000 public charging facilities by the end of this year, supporting the development of a transport system with more new energy vehicles in use.
Henan will also create a special government fund to support the development of satellite chips and terminals. The province will also encourage wide adoption of the BeiDou satellite navigation system in emergency management, monitoring of the environment and smart farming.
The province will also promote the digital transformation of its manufacturing sector. This would involve building 150 smart factories and 10 provincial-level industrial internet platforms.