China vows to work with other countries to eliminate 'digital divide'

China is willing to work with other countries to eliminate the "digital divide" and boost the digitization of trade in services, President Xi Jinping said on Friday in Beijing.

"We need to adapt to the trend towards digital-driven, Internet-based and smart growth, jointly eliminate the 'digital divide', and advance the digitization of trade in services," Xi said at the opening ceremony of the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), the first such large-scale event in Beijing since the coronavirus outbreak.

As the global economy goes increasingly digital, the cooperation becomes more digitized and innovative as well. At the trade fair, Xi stressed China would continue to build bases for featured services export and develop new business forms and models in services trade.

In the post-pandemic era, the country issued several policies to support the growth of new business models, aiming to nurture more independent business owners and support self-employment while as the latest move to boost consumption and create jobs.

Data shows new business models, like e-commerce, were estimated to account for 32.12 percent of the gross merchandise volume (GMV) of the country's B2C online retailing in 2018 alone, while small- and medium-sized businesses contribute more than 60 percent to the country's economic growth and employ more than 80 percent of workers in China.

This year's coronavirus outbreak may have disrupted global supply chains and dealt a big blow to many economies. China is no exception.

However, opportunities always come out of crises. The advice of reducing body contact to fight against coronavirus has led the Chinese to embrace a growing number of business innovations, like the rise of O2O (online-to-offline commerce) business, online education, cloud service, and 5G technology.

Xi also urged joint efforts to facilitate the digital economy's growth and sharing economy, saying such efforts will generate renewed dynamism for the world economy.

According to a report released by the State Information Center last year, China's sharing economy's market value will expand by an average rate of 30 percent in the next three years. The sector's potential is to stabilize employment and boosting consumption would be further unleashed.

The sharing economy has become not only a significant option for people who are self-employed but also an employment channel for specific social groups.

For example, 6.7 percent of drivers for China's ride-hailing company Didi are from registered impoverished households, 12 percent are veterans, and more than 21 percent are the sole breadwinner of their families.