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Country leads Asia in digital economy

By CHENG YU Source: CHINA DAILY 2023-12-23

Visitors view information at a booth promoting the e-CNY during an expo in Beijing. [Photo by Chen Xiaogen/For China Daily]

The digital economy has become a key source of growth for Asia, accounting for 38.5 percent of the combined GDP of 14 Asian economies last year, and a large number of technological innovation clusters are shifting toward the continent, said a report on Asia's digital economy on Thursday.

The report said that the digital economy market scale of the 14 countries hit $12.8 trillion last year, an increase of $430 billion from the previous year.

China, in particular, is far ahead with a digital economy market worth $7.47 trillion, followed by Japan at $2.37 trillion and South Korea at $952.3 billion. India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia, Israel and Malaysia are also among the Top 10.

The findings are part of the Asia Digital Economy Report launched by the Boao Forum for Asia and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank, in Beijing on Thursday.

Li Baodong, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia, said at a news conference that an impressive trend is that "clusters of technological innovation are shifting eastward toward Asia".

"Many Asian cities, as emerging innovation clusters, are becoming attractive destinations for advanced factors of production and innovation, thus reshaping the global innovation landscape," Li said.

Data from the World Intellectual Property Organization showed that Asia is now home to the highest percentage of the Top 100 science and technology innovation clusters. China itself boasts a total of 24, while Japan, South Korea and India each have four.

Compared with the previous year, the three clusters with the most significant rise in rankings in 2022 are all from China, namely Zhenjiang and Wuxi in Jiangsu province, and Hefei, Anhui province.

The report also said that the 14 Asian economies' digital economies expanded 3.5 percent year-on-year in nominal terms last year, which was 3.3 percentage points higher than the nominal GDP growth rate over the same period. This has effectively promoted the sustained recovery of the global economy.

Notably, emerging economies in Asia grew at a faster pace, demonstrating strong economic resilience and development potential.

In 2022, Saudi Arabia had the highest year-on-year growth rate of its digital economy, reaching 29.3 percent and ranking first in Asia. Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkiye, Malaysia, Israel and China all experienced more than 10 percent growth in their digital economies.

Behind the burgeoning digital economy growth, said Wang Zhiqin, deputy director of the CAICT, are Asia's efforts in driving the sector through strengthened top-level design, enhanced planning systems, and coordinated efforts from both upstream and downstream industries.

For instance, R&D and innovation in 6G and future networks are accelerating in Asia while cutting-edge technologies such as AI, metaverse and quantum computing are being deployed at a faster pace, Wang said.

However, Li from the BFA also noted that multiple challenges must still be addressed. For example, a sharp digital divide can be also observed among economies, among industries and between urban and rural areas.

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