Internet-based businesses and media have been asked to actively engage in the Belt and Road Initiative by building a “digital Silk Road” and helping to upgrade traditional industries within and beyond China’s borders.
The country should expand e-commerce, industrial networks and Internet banking abroad, a senior official said. This would enable it to serve more than a billion Internet users, businesses and investors along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The expansion should be undertaken in addition to implementing the country’s Internet Plus plan, whereby everything will be connected to a superfast broadband network, said Ren Xianliang, vice-minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
“An Internet economic community could be formed to benefit each country,” Ren told an Internet media forum in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, on Sept 4.
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. It was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 as a way of reviving ancient trade links between Asia and Europe. The routes pass through at least 60 countries and regions with a combined population of 4.4 billion.
Zhanjiang, the host city of the 15th Forum on Internet Media of China, was a starting point of one of ancient China’s earliest maritime trading routes during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). It is now one of the 15 pivotal cities of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Ren urged Internet companies to join the interconnectivity efforts prompted by the initiative by stoking investment in network infrastructure and speeding up the construction of a digital Silk Road.
It was the second time in a month that the administration, the country’s top Internet regulator, had put forward the concept.
On July 6, Lu Wei, the head of the organization, spoke at the first China-EU digital cooperation round table in Brussels. “We are ready to invest because there are infinite opportunities. We can build a digital Silk Road, a Silk Road in cyberspace,” he said.
Ren said that the development of Internet technology and the flow of information in countries and regions traversed by the Belt and Road vary considerably.
“On the basis of respecting their network sovereignty, history, culture and religious belief, Chinese Internet companies should forge closer links with their counterparts in the countries,” he added.
Qu Yingpu, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily, said the country’s Internet media could play an “irreplaceable” role in promoting dialogue between different civilizations and communications between various nations.
The annual forum, inaugurated in 2001, gathered together 300 representatives from government departments, Internet service providers and IT companies and academics to discuss how communications and cooperation in cyberspace could support the Belt and Road Initiative.
Zhu Ling, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, Chen Yun-xian, vice-governor of Guangdong, and Wang Zhongbing, mayor of Zhanjiang, were among the participants. China Daily’s website co-sponsored the forum.